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 hemimentors@uc.edu or visit www.hemimentors.org for more information.

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MayDay for Foster Children

Our rescheduled MayDay for Foster Children event on Fountain Square is scheduled for Monday from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Several people will speak at noon. Please join us. If you have any interest in being a foster parent, mentoring or helping to guide a child through the court process, this is a great informational event for you to attend. Here are more details:

http://www.hcjfs.hamilton-co.org/Buttons/Media/Pressreleases/2011/May/A%20MayDay%20for%20Foster%20Children.pdf

Shining a Light on Foster Care

Foster care will appear in the news several times in the coming weeks and I could not be happier. This is a subject we constantly draw attention to because the need for foster parents never subsides. With 850 foster children in Hamilton County on any given day, we constantly search for parents who are kind enough to open their hearts and homes to our children.

On April 27, we are working with WCPO Channel 9 on a phone bank that will help recruit foster parents to our Everyday Heroes Collaborative. The station has agreed to feature foster families and help us spread the word about the need for foster parents.

On May 2, we are participating with a group of entities that work with foster children to host MayDay for Foster Children on Fountain Square. The event, scheduled from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., will feature speeches by local dignitaries and foster care experts – slated to start at noon – as well as information booths to educate interested parties on the positive aspects of foster parenting, mentoring, helping children through the child protection court process and more.

On May 18, the annual Butterflies and Blue Ribbons foster family appreciation event is scheduled for Krohn Conservatory at Eden Park. This is always a nice event because it is our chance to say thanks to those families that have stepped up and vowed to change a child’s life and make their community a better place to live.

Hopefully, we will see you at one of these events!

Mentors Needed!

Training for those interested in serving as mentors for Hamilton County foster children seeking to complete high school and further their education has been scheduled for early 2010.

Two options are available for the Higher Education Mentoring Initiative (HEMI) training, including:

* Saturday, Jan. 22, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., at One Edwards Center on the University of Cincinnati’s main campus. Lunch and parking validation included.

* Tuesday, Feb. 2, and Thursday, Feb. 4, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. each day at the same location.

To register, contact Annie Dick at annie.dick@uc.edu or 556-4368.

HEMI began last year with 25 mentors. We would like at least another 25 this year.

We will write feature stories on mentors and students in issues of HCJFS Update in 2010. Please look for them!