Reaching out to Hispanic population

Counties across Ohio will reach out to the Hispanic population this summer as part of child support awareness activities. It’s estimated that there are more than 50,000 Hispanics in Greater Cincinnati.

In Hamilton County, we have begun distributing new brochures produced in Spanish by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Child and Families/Office of Child Support Enforcement.

We learned while meeting with social service partners that many Spanish-speaking people will be unable to read the brochures. They’re illiterate not just in English. They can’t read in any language.

However, the brochures will help educate those who work with this population. It will allow them to share accurate information about this vital program.

Child support is important because it can help a single parent pay for a child’s food and clothes, medical care and health insurance, housing, education, child care and more.

Also, child support services help custodial parents find their child’s other parent, which may involve him or her in raising the child.

According to the Office of Child Support Enforcement, research shows that children who grow up with two active, caring parents are more likely to:

• Do well in school.
• Have strong morals and self-esteem.
• Get along well with others.
• Have good mental health
• Keep jobs and earn more money
• Feel more connected to their heritage
• Be successful with their own families.

If you would like some of the brochures, please contact our Communications office at boehmm@jfs.hamilton-co.org. We appreciate your help as we reach out to this population.

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Hamilton County JFS Chosen for Innovative New Program

I am excited to say we received notice we are one of 10 new counties to offer an innovative, alternative approach to protecting the children of Hamilton County.

The Ohio Alternative Response Pilot Project evolved from the work of the Supreme Court Advisory Committee on Children, Families, and the Courts’ Subcommittee on Responding to Child Abuse, Neglect, and Dependency. The program approaches families in a non-adversarial way, without the constant threat of punishment that often accompanies child welfare cases. While child safety is still the number one goal, the Alternative Response approach recognizes the different levels of severity with child welfare cases and the fact that they can be treated in different ways.

I am excited because this allows us to really look at the needs of each family we encounter in an individual way. Child welfare has never been a cookie-cutter business, as each family has unique problems and needs. We investigated more than 5,300 reports of abuse last year. Some can be helped with intense services up front, while others require long-term involvement. This program provides even greater opportunity to try new approaches.

According to a study conducted on the 10 original counties, Alternative Response resulted in:

● Children remaining as safe with this approach as the traditional investigative approach
● Families more satisfied with the services they received
● Greater participation in decision making by families
● Greater satisfaction among child welfare workers
● A decline in the number of children being removed from their home and placed elsewhere

We are honored to be chosen for any program that tries new approaches to helping families.

Wonderful Event

Last night’s Celebration of Dreams event was a fantastic success! We celebrated the graduations of more than 50 of our foster youth. It was a fun, inspirational event that left everyone with a smile on their face.

Our young people really enjoyed their moment in the spotlight. For many of them, this is the only graduation party they will experience.

Dr. Mitchel Livingston delivered a moving speech about overcoming poverty to achieve great success. His message was that it does not matter where you start in life, but where you end.

Lincoln Ware served as master of ceremonies and kept the event moving and fun.

Dozens of volunteers from our agency, the Foster Child Enrichment Council and the Coalition of Care helped make the night a memorable one for our teens. I cannot thank them enough.

To read more about the event, check out this story in The Cincinnati Enquirer:

http://news.cincinnati.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/AB/20100616/NEWS01/6170373/

Lead Education Event

Our agency is participating in an important event on Friday that is worth your attention.

The Hamilton County Lead Poisoning Prevention Collaborative is hosting an event to educate the public about keeping children free of lead. Childhood lead poisoning remains a health risk for Cincinnati children despite being one of the most preventable environmental diseases among young children.

Lead poisoning can cause learning and developmental disabilities, attention deficit disorder, and in severe cases, seizures, unconsciousness and death.

Along with the educational aspects, the event will be fun for children, with food, games and prizes.

It runs from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Friday at Building Value Re-Use Center, 4040 Spring Grove Ave.

To learn more about keeping your children lead-free, call 357-7420 or visit visit www.cincinnati-oh.gov/health/pages/-36357-/

Celebrating Dreams

One of the biggest and most joyous events of our year is coming up this week. More than 50 teens in Hamilton County’s foster care system will bid farewell to high school and say hello to their futures at this year’s “Celebration of Dreams” event.

The 12th annual event will be held at 5:45 p.m. Wednesday, June 16, at the 20th Century Theater in Oakley. The event includes dinner and an awards ceremony featuring student speakers, a keynote speaker (Dr. Mitchel Livingston of the University of Cincinnati) and the presentation of certificates and other gifts for the graduates.

The teens invite their foster families and other important people in their lives, such as caseworkers, mentors, court-appointed special advocates and guardian ad litems.

The night will be spent honoring teens who have overcome tough backgrounds – sometimes abusive backgrounds — to graduate high school.

I absolutely love this event. These young people have experienced tremendous obstacles and have to work harder than their peers to achieve academic success They, and the people who have supported them, deserve a celebration and a pat on the back.

I’m also looking forward to hearing Dr. Livingston, who has a fantastic tale to tell about overcoming poverty and discrimination. I think our teens can really benefit from this. We know they have a tough road ahead: studies show they are more likely to be incarcerated, homeless, teen parents and beset with other social problems.

We have created a mentoring program, the Higher Education Mentoring Initiative, with the University of Cincinnati and others, to help some transition to a successful post-graduate life. We know they are fighters — they have graduated high school against great odds. Let’s hope their fighting spirit prevails!

Fatherhood Movement Gaining Local Traction

It seems like a trend is sweeping our county, and we are happy to be a part of it. Many groups are starting or revitalizing fatherhood initiatives in an attempt to get disengaged fathers back in their child’s life. Our agency is right in the middle of several of these efforts.

First, we have our own program, Engaging Fathers, within our Children’s Services organization. This is aimed at reducing the number of children placed in foster homes and residential facilities. We are looking at ways to improve early identification, location and engagement of fathers and the paternal side of the family. We want to reduce placements because studies show children overall have better outcomes when with family.

We have several partners in this effort, including the Hamilton County Juvenile Court, Hamilton County Prosecutor’s Office, Hamilton County Public Defender’s Office, Lighthouse Youth Services and Talbert House. The group meets monthly and is working to establish outcomes that will measure the success of the group’s work. One idea is to show improvement in the number of fathers the agency is able to identify, locate and engage. Data sources are being investigated.

In addition to the work being done by this group, the agency has also created two new Kinship Locator positions that will focus specifically on identifying kin who can serve as suitable care givers for children involved with Childrens Services.

At the same time, Lighthouse Youth Services is planning a fatherhood conference aimed at strengthening fathers, families and the Greater Cincinnati community for Aug. 13. The conference will feature workshops on child support, parenting, relationships, family violence and mental health. We will have further information on speakers and registration at a later date.

We’ve had a five-year partnership with Lighthouse to help fathers who owe child support achieve life skills that will lead to employment, responsible payment of child support and more meaningful relationships with their children. The program, entitled REAL (Responsible, Effective, Accountable, Loving) Dads, has been responsible for the collection of $423,000 in child support since its inception (currently $20,000 a month).

And then, just last week, the Talbert House Fatherhood Project held its second annual Fatherhood Celebration. Talbert House took over the project, which started under SUMA in 2000, two years ago and has added this great event to celebrate and recognize the fathers in the program.

The Fatherhood Project is a United Way-funded program that has served more than 1,200 fathers since its inception. It promotes active and nurturing parenting by providing fatherhood coaching, parenting classes and fellowship support to give the men the tools to be engaged fathers. In addition, the fathers receive case management, employment readiness and legal services to remove barriers to employment and compliance with child support.

There is a lot of traction behind fatherhood right now and we are very happy to be involved!

Dreams Come True Through Adoption

We kicked off a new adoption campaign this week. You can read more about it here:

http://www.hcjfs.hamilton-co.org/Buttons/Media/Pressreleases/2010/June/Pressrelease_AdoptionCommercial100603.pdf

Please spread the word. We have so many older children who need a loving family and permanent home. My heart breaks at the numbers and the faces behind the numbers.

You can help make some child’s Dream Come True!!