Mariah Maxwell is First HEMI Graduate

Earlier this week the Enquirer published a wonderful column about Mariah Maxwell, the first HEMI graduate to earn a degree.

We could not be more proud of Mariah! Like many of our foster students, she has faced more obstacles than the average youth and managed to overcome them.

Now, she will be graduating college with two degrees earned in three years and plans to attend the graduate school of Criminal Justice at the University of Cincinnati.

Unfortunately, Mariah’s story is still uncommon. Nationally, only 3 percent of children in foster care go on to graduate college. For many foster children, when they age out of foster care at 18, they have little to no support. Most are forced to be self-sufficient at an extremely young age, often without access to housing, employment or basic life skills.

In 2009, Commissioner Greg Hartmann assembled a partnership between Hamilton County, Job and Family Services, the University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati State and Great Oaks to address this need and HEMI was formed.

Mentors commit to at least two hours of personal interaction each week and once a month, attend a HEMI activity. The most effective mentors are able to engage in a relationship based on trust and understanding.

When we started, it was with the idea that a conversation about higher education could make a significant difference in foster children’s lives.

Now, HEMI has grown to incorporate multiple partnerships that provide clothing, resume advice and in some cases, even housing or mental health opportunities to our former foster kids.

But the most important part about HEMI remains the mentors.

One line in particular of the Enquirer’s story struck me: “My going into foster care opened up a lot of doors. Without it, I wouldn’t have met (my mentor) Kate Livingston or my foster mother, Sheeila Foster – they pushed me, and encouraged me to finish school,” Mariah said.

That is what HEMI is all about, turning what can be seen as an obstacle – foster care – into an opportunity.

For Mariah, HEMI made a difference.

Unfortunately, there are many more foster students in Hamilton County that face similar hardships. This summer HEMI will be recruiting mentors ready to make a commitment to guiding these students. Individuals interested in long-term mentoring should contact HEMIat or visit for more information.


Save the Date: Wear Blue April 10

Wear BlueOne of the main duties of Hamilton County Job and Family Services is operating Hamilton County’s child abuse hotline: 241-KIDS. In 2011, the hotline received almost 65,000 calls, resulting in more than 5,600 allegations of abuse or neglect.

That may seem like a lot, but studies show that far more cases of abuse or neglect go unreported each year, meaning thousands of children are suffering in silence.

Often, it is because people don’t recognize the signs or afraid to make the call.

That’s why each of the 88 children’s services agencies in the state will join together this April in asking you to wear blue to help raise awareness about child abuse and neglect.

Last year was Hamilton County’s first year participating in Wear Blue to Work Day, which replaced the former Pinwheels for Prevention campaign, and I think we can declare the day a success.

Wear Blue to Work Day 2012

Wear Blue to Work Day 2012

Not only was our own staff energized to help build awareness, but staff from the United Way, several of our partners and some local television personalities joined us in these efforts. On a statewide level, the campaign was successful too as Governor John Kasich, legislators and other officials participated by wearing blue and posting their pictures on Facebook.

This year, we want you to join us. Start by saving the date: remember to wear blue April 10. Then like us on Facebook at Throughout the month of April we’ll be posting important tips about spotting child abuse and neglect and how you can help children who have experienced abuse. On April 10, post a picture of yourself on our wall wearing blue with friends, family or co-workers.

With your help we can make a strong statement: child abuse is preventable.

We need more Mary Tolers!


I love this article that appeared in our newsletter: Longtime foster mom makes room for one more adoption — her eighth.

 What an inspirational person. She works full time and manages to take care of eight adoptive children. Ms. Toler is truly an Everyday Hero and she is changing children’s lives — and this community — for the better.

I just wanted to pass this on. Stories like this bring tears to my eyes. We cannot do this job alone.

We need more Mary Tolers!


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