Happy Holidays

Our offices will close at noon tomorrow and reopen Thursday morning. I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday.

We were very fortunate this year to have much support from the community. Toys for Tots once again donated hundreds of toys to our abused and neglected children. The U.S. Marine Corps Reserves does a fantastic job and helps so many people in this community and around the country.

Two churches, the Peoples Church in Clifton and Montgomery Community Church, held holiday parties for our children. It is so nice to be able to give them a sense of normalcy around the holidays and to see smiles on their faces!

Numerous other people donated gifts to our children. I wish I could name them all. The generosity of this community always amazes me.

Thank you and may your holidays be warm and filled with family and friends.

 

 

 

 

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Haile Foundation Goes Above and Beyond for JFS

We have many partnerships in our community with organizations and other government entities that are doing similar work and trying to achieve similar goals. The bottom line is we can achieve more when we work together.

But we have a special relationship with The Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile Jr. Foundation. The Haile Foundation truly believes in our work and helping the people we serve, so the folks running the foundation go above and beyond when it comes to helping us out. I sometimes feel like we are the Haile Foundation’s adopted child — Tim and Leslie Maloney and Christine Bochenek answer the call any time we reach out to them.

The Haile Foundation currently funds several interns who perform work that helps take the pressure off of our staff. It also has provided gifts to graduating foster children or adoptive families in the past, including tickets to Playhouse in the Park.

And now the Foundation is bringing country singer Jimmy Wayne to town to speak to our staff, providers, partners and foster children about how a “foster” family saved his life and set him on the path to success. His story is touching and inspirational and I am glad the people who work in the field and the children who are traveling similar paths will have the chance to hear it.

Tim, Leslie and Chris are extremely good to our organization and make life easier for the people we serve. These are the kinds of parterships that work. We cannot achieve our mission without the support of the community.

Thank you Haile Foundation!

2012: Year of Transition

Below is my latest column in Update, our community newsletter. You can check out the column and much more news about our agency at the link below. I encourage you to become a regular subscriber.

http://www.hcjfs.hamilton-co.org/UpdateNew2012/December/Cover.htm 

 

Our recent mass adoption ceremony – always an emotional, uplifting experience – gave me a chance to reflect on the past year here at JFS. While the ceremony always draws a lot of attention, we have many other positive events throughout the year that often get lost in the day-to-day work of serving Hamilton County residents. It is nice to sometimes take stock of these victories.

We have had a year of transition in many areas. We transitioned the county’s Family and Children First Council under our stewardship, saving the county about $150,000 in annual administrative costs. We also transitioned the SuperJobs Center from a private operator to JFS, allowing us to save $500,000 in administrative costs, which were funneled back into services to the community.

I am happy to report both have gone well, particularly the SuperJobs transition. We are serving more than double the people served the year before in our Workforce Investment Act programs and we expect to lead the state in on-the-job training accounts with private businesses. SuperJobs is a great economic engine for this community, helping the unemployed find work and training, while aiding local businesses in locating the skilled employees they need to complete their workforce.

We transitioned from worst to first in processing food assistance requests. Faced with a caseload that jumped nearly 70,000 cases in a four-year period, we had fallen to a state low in meeting the 30-day limit to process applications and reapplications. But our staff tackled the problem head on, working long hours to get caught up and implementing technology solutions, such as document imaging, for long-term improvement.

The result has been nothing short of unbelievable. Hamilton County became the first metropolitan county in history to process more than 90 percent of food assistance cases in a timely manner and then proceeded to do so for nine months running (and still counting). That is likely to be a record never broken.

While we are on the subject of success with public assistance cases, I would be remiss if I did not point out we again led all metropolitan counties in workforce participation rates for Ohio Works First clients. This is extremely important because the federal government has targeted the state for heavy financial sanctions if those rates do not improve. We have actually been asked by the state to help other counties understand our processes so they can increase their rates.

I am extremely proud when we lead the state in any category, but I am also happy to see us simply improve upon our own benchmarks. That is exactly what is happening in child support, where we are setting records for case establishment and paternity establishment. When you combine that work with the Division’s new programs – one to help provide safe visitation between parents and their children and another to help fathers work through issues that keep them from consistent child support payments – it is easy to see our folks are working harder than ever on behalf of Hamilton County’s children.

This year, we also transitioned from our traditional Pinwheels for Prevention child abuse awareness campaign to a more noticeable Wear Blue to Work campaign. The campaign drew a lot of support from around the county and was much easier for people to participate in. We look forward to another great campaign in April!

So, as you can see, there has been a lot of transition – all with successful endings – in 2012. While they are certainly the most notable events of our past year, they are just a small fraction of the work we have performed. In fact, they stand as symbols of a much broader success we have experienced on a daily basis.

I am extremely proud of the service we provide Hamilton County residents. Our staff is full of dedicated people who care about our consumers and are committed to doing great work. That sometimes gets lost in the grind of our day-to-day work. There is no better time than the end of the year to recognize their success and say thanks.

 

Celebrating Youth Who Persevere and Overcome

I am really looking forward to tomorrow night when we celebrate the high school graduation of 35 students in our care. These foster youth have overcome great obstacles to reach academic sucess and throwing them a well-deserved party is always one of the highlights of my year.

For many, the Celebration of Dreams ceremony is the only non-school recognition they receive of their achievement. They get to dress up, hear an inspirational speaker, enjoy a nice meal and spend time with people whom have helped them along the way. We will recognize them with certificates of achievement, a video that they star in and gift certificates to help them transition to independence.

I am especially looking forward to this year’s speaker, Adrian McLemore. He is a former foster youth himself, and is now caring for his nieces and nephews in order to keep them out of foster care. He has a remarkable story. You can read more about him here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/06/18/adrian-mclemore-veteran-o_n_879722.html

To learn more about the Celebration of Dreams itself, here is a press release: http://www.hcjfs.hamilton-co.org/Buttons/Media/Pressreleases/2012/June/Press%20release_%20Celebration%20of%20Dreams%202012.pdf 

Mentoring Program Wins National Award

My most recent post mentioned the need for volunteers in our Higher Education Mentoring Program (HEMI). Well, I have more news on that front: the program was chosen as a 2012 Achievement Award winner by the National Association of Counties!

This is a great acknowledgement of our success. There were 11 programs throughout Ohio recognized as innovative and increasing service to county residents. We are very proud that HEMI was among those chosen.

The National Association of Counties has recognized innovative programs since 1970 and our agency usually has at least one winner.  Awards are given in 21 different categories including children and youth, criminal justice, county administration, environmental protection, information technology, health, and many more.

You can read more about HEMI in the below post. We need mentors if you are interested in joining our award-winning program! 

 

 

Mentors Needed for our Foster Youth

It has been awhile since I have posted about our Higher Education Mentoring Initiative.  We are holding several information sessions in July to recruit new mentors. if you are interested, please put these dates and times on your calendar now: July 10, July 18 and July 24. Each session is from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. 

The sessions will be held at the Hamilton County Administration Building, 138 Court St. Attend one and hear about the benefits of mentoring.

If you are someone interested in helping a youth in our community achieve academic succes, this is a perfect program for you. You will spend time helping a foster child graduate high school and go on to some type of post-high school success. You will also likely make a life-long friend.

We started this program because of a need. We saw our foster children struggling to graduate high school and move on to successful higher learning opportunities. Nationally, only 3 percent of foster children earn college degrees. Our numbers were similar. They were aging out with nowhere to go. They have much higher rates of homelessness, incarceration and other social problems than non-foster children.

The program goal is to reduce the number of foster youth who drop out of high school; increase the number who apply to and pursue higher education; and set foster youth on a path to successful careers and sustainable income.

With the great partnership we have with the University of Cincinnati’s Partnership for Achieving School Success (PASS), Cincinnati State Technical and Community College, Great Oaks Institute of Technology and Career Development and the Hamilton County Board of Commission, this has turned into a wonderful program. Since its start, 100 percent of the students have graduated high school! We served 37 students last year and most are pursuing higher education at schools such as UC, Cincinnati State, Great Oaks, the College of Mt. Saint Joseph and The Ohio State University

There is some commitment to being a mentor. You’ll commit to a six-hour training course and spending two hours a week with your mentee through high school graduation and on through their pursuit of post-secondary education.

To be considered for the mentor program, participants must fill out an application, undergo a background check and complete an interview process. This includes providing a copy of a valid drivers’ license and proof of insurance.

To obtain an application and for more information, contact Annie Schellinger, UC HEMI Program Coordinator, at 513-556-4368, or e-mail annie.schellinger@uc.edu

Children Shine in Recruitment Videos

Here’s a link to a nice television news story about our adoption recruitment efforts. We have stepped up the use of video over the past year. It really allows the children to shine and gives potential parents a glimpse of their personality.

We have more than 800 foster children on any given day, and slightly less than 200 are awaiting adoptive parents. If you are interested in adopting or fostering, pleace call 632-6366 or check out our website, www.hckids.org.

I hope you enjoy the story:

http://www.local12.com/news/local/story/Hamilton-County-Foster-Kids-Make-Videos-in-Search/iK8nnJZLf0-7_IYVrM2TPA.cspx

Update Newsletter Features Story on Document Imaging

The latest version of our Update newsletter contains stories on our improvements in processing public assistance applications, the state’s new child support portal, the need for mentors in our Higher Education Mentoring Initiative and our new document imaging service that should improve speed and accuracy when it comes to processing applications.

The document imaging system will upload important verification documents from consumers right into our computer system, attaching them to specific cases so they are forever available. This does away with paper case files that often sat on workers desks or in filing cabinets and were difficult to access. Now, anyone in the agency will be able to see a consumer’s verification documents with the click of a mouse.

This will make it easier to process applications and should eliminate the chance of lost documents.

To read more about the new system or any of the other stories I mentioned, click here to see our newsletter. If you would like to become a regular reader of HCJFS news, please subscribe!

Mentors Needed for Foster Children

Our Higher Education Mentoring Initiative is in need of mentors. If you are someone interested in helping a youth in need, this is a perfect program for you. You will spend time helping a foster child graduate high school and go on to some type of post-high school success. You will also likely make a life-long friend.

We started this program because of a need. We saw our foster children struggling to graduate high school and move on to successful higher learning opportunities. Nationally, only 3 percent of foster children earn college degrees. Our numbers were similar. They were aging out with nowhere to go. They have much higher rates of homelessness, incarceration and other social problems than non-foster children.

Rarely, if ever, is a conversation even had with these children that higher education is an option. Furthermore, if higher education is discussed with them, it often seems daunting or unattainable due to the unawareness of financial resources and assistance available to them.

 The purpose of this community partnership is to provide foster youth with a long-term mentoring relationship that begins in high school and is focused on the awareness of, and preparation for, post-secondary education and training.

The program goal is to reduce the number of foster youth who drop out of high school; increase the number who apply to and pursue higher education; and set foster youth on a path to successful careers and sustainable income.

With the great partnership we have with the University of Cincinnati’s Partnership for Achieving School Success (PASS), Cincinnati State Technical and Community College, Great Oaks Institute of Technology and Career Development and the Hamilton County Board of Commission, this has turned into a wonderful program. Since its start, 100 percent of the students have graduated high school! We served 37 students last year and most are pursuing higher education at schools such as UC, Cincinnati State, Great Oaks, the College of Mt. Saint Joseph and The Ohio State University

There is some commitment to being a mentor. You’ll commit to a six-hour training course and spending two hours a week with your mentee through high school graduation and on through their pursuit of post-secondary education.

To be considered for the mentor program, participants must fill out an application, undergo a background check and complete an interview process. This includes providing a copy of a valid drivers’ license and proof of insurance.

To obtain an application and for more information, contact Annie Schellinger, UC HEMI Program Coordinator, at 513-556-4368, or e-mail annie.schellinger@uc.edu 

The true success of this program is with the relationships. We have had some tremendous mentor/mentee relationships. In fact, the relationship often blossoms into a true friendship. That makes this program better than we could have ever expected, because these children end up with life-long mentors!

National Magazine Covers Celebration of Dreams

Tha National Association of Counties Magazine carried a wonderful story on our Celebration of Dreams event. I am so proud of our foster youth and so glad they are receiving not only local, but national, recognition for their achievements. Here is the story:

http://admin.naco.org/newsroom/countynews/Current%20Issue/7-4-11/Pages/Ohiocountyfetesfoster-carehighschoolgraduates.aspx