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Summertime is one of the most nostalgic seasons for a child. As they get ready to sharpen fresh pencils and pack up for a new school year, the community unites local families for one last farewell to summer. Family & Children Services of Clark County is hosting another fun filled Summer Sky event on Saturday, August 17 from 1-5 p.m., free for all families in the area. This outdoor event at Springfield, Ohio’s Heritage Center is jam-packed with music, entertainment, food, games and so much more.Firefighter

The following main attractions give children a variety of participation-friendly activities:

  • COSI, America’s No. 1 science center, is joining the excitement with 10 mobile science stations guaranteed to stimulate and educate children all day.
  • Extraordinary juggler Mike Hemmeigarn
  • Glen Helen’s high soaring Raptors of the Sky 1:30-3 p.m. show
  • Creepy crawly Bugman 2-4 p.m. showcase
  • Adorned Boonshoft Museum of Discovery all-day petting zoo

BugmanAside from the main attractions, families can spring into action in the giant inflatable moonwalks, enjoy live music, laugh during puppet shows, create beautiful crafts, receive face paintings and win carnival prizes. For the adults feeling lucky, Summer Sky is also offering a raffle for gift cards and prizes from local businesses.

Family & Children Services of Clark County also uses this opportunity to create a platform to raise awareness for positive family interaction, healthy family relationships, and information about adoption and foster care for local children needing a stable and loving home.

Our Parents As Partners booth will also be set up at the event. Armed with cornhole toss and prizes, we also want to educate the community about this available program. This no-cost plan highlights ways parents, together or separate, can nurture a healthy relationship with their child, provides additional educational, health and vocational services and delivers a helping hand.

Without the community, Summer Sky would not be possible. The following community partners have made this year’s event achievable: The Heritage Center, Clark County Public Library, Clark State Performing Arts Center & Project Jericho, Security National Bank, Springfield News-Sun and Wal-Mart.

We hope to see you all there!

Event Details

Date:      August 17, 2013

Time:       1-5 p.m.

Where:    The Heritage Center, 117 S. Fountain Ave., Springfield OH

Parking:   Available at the Clark State Community College Performing Arts Center

Cost:       No Admission Charge

Challenge Campers

We put on a lot of fun events for children and their families alike, but Challenge Camp, by far, receives the most buzz and excitement. A staff composed of Tecumseh Council Boy Scouts, Kiwanis, The United Way, social workers, probation officers, therapists, Springfield City Schools Transportation Department, Clark County Juvenile Court and Clark County Court Appointed Special Advocate supporters creates a positive environment for campers, and they are armed to teach kids how to enjoy their childhood regardless of challenging circumstances. Without their help and guidance, this camp would not be possible.
 
Challenge Camp is designed to give kids the opportunity to attend a summer camp when they normally could not afford to. Campers range from ages 5 to 10 and all are at-risk youth from low-income homes, open children services cases, the Lincoln Promise neighborhood, foster care, recently adopted homes or have behavioral issues. This year, the camp runs from July 29, 2013 to August 2, 2013, and our community partners have made this camp low or no cost for campers.
 
The camp has been around for more than 20 years and registration continues to grow. This year, Challenge Camp expects 150 children to register compared to the 80 registrations from past years. Courtney McKinnon, FCS social worker, says every time a parent tells her their child is bustling with eagerness in January for camp to start, she can’t help but smile.
 
Kids ArcheryThis is the ideal summer camp! Kids enjoy swimming, archery, crafts, hiking, team building, boating, group activities, BB guns, water games, fishing and many more events. Each child decorates a shirt to take home and participates in a talent show at the camp-wide campfire at the end of the week. Breakfast and lunch are also provided at this day camp.
 
Every kid has his or her own story and challenges. This camp allows them to forget about their difficult home life and learn to smile again. As they leave Challenge Camp, every camper learns something about his or herself, builds relationships with their social workers and peers, acquires improved self-esteem and gives into their fears—whether that be swimming in a pool, leaving the comfort of their home, braving the great outdoors or opening up to new people.
 
Most importantly, campers learn they are not alone. They are all survivors of foster care, abuse, neglect, trauma and so much more. These children have similar backgrounds and stories, and bringing them together unearths something special out of each and every one of them by the end of the week.
 
To learn more about Family and Children Service of Clark County or find out how you can help, please visit our website.

Family & Children Services (FCS) of Clark County and Project Jericho will host another successful Lifebook camp this summer. The camp lasts for a week and focuses on encouraging the children to write the pages of their life story through their point of view. The participating children range from all ages, but have similar yet unique anecdotes. Each child is accompanied by a significant adult in their life, such as a member from their foster, birth or Clark County FCS family.

 

Rows of lifebooks created by the children.

Rows of lifebooks created by the children.

Project Jericho is a collaborative program between Job & Family Services of Clark County and the Clark State Performing Arts Center. The program emphasizes the positive impact on at-risk youth and their families after teaching them how to express themselves through art. With the help of Project Jericho, Lifebook campers create an artistic, 20-page book containing two powerful themes: their past and their future.

 
To fill in the blanks on their past, Lifebook acquires birth records, social security numbers, health records, birth certificates and any other information that the children may not know or have ever seen. Kimberly Dysert, adoption social worker for Clark County Family & Children Services, said some children do not know the simplest information about their births or identity. It is important to share the documents with them as means to piece the puzzle together so they can feel whole and not in the dark.

 
 
Beth Dixon, Director of Project Jericho, works with the children to create a story from their perspective of their biological family. Social workers and family members work hard to explain to each child the reasons why their mother or father could not provide the proper care for them, and make sure the child does not feel the blame is placed on their shoulders.

 

Drama Mask
 
 
One page of the book consists of a photo of the moon the night they were born. On the moon, children write a lullaby someone sang to them or nursery rhyme they remember growing up. Another page consists of a mask. Everyone is asked to explain what their masks means to them. Is it a mask that protects them from bad people, is it a mask protecting them from the things that scare them the most, or is it a mask reflecting themselves?
 
 
 
 
Looking onward to the future, each child explains the characteristics a good mother or father should have. This can be done in words or through picture. Another page is dedicated to drawing their home now, or one from their past, and then comparing it to a “dream home”. Some of these homes subliminally reflect what makes them feel safe: family. Finally, campers compose a poem about themselves with full free range.

 
After an emotional and eye-opening week, the camp comes together to hear what the children enjoyed learning as they share the contents of their book. Lifebook does not push anyone to share if they are not comfortable, but by the end of the week everyone is uplifted, open and most participate. As the books unfold, children feel liberated to finally tell their story that once fell on unheard ears.

 
Dysert said, “Lifebook is something every worker should experience with their child. It’s amazing to see their transformation and the pride they show after finally being able to tell their stories. This camp gives children an opportunity they might not have otherwise received by learning art techniques from skilled professionals…Creativity is truly a beautiful thing!”

 
To learn more about Project Jericho and their summer camps, visit them at http://www.project-jericho.com

Human trafficking, a multi-billion dollar, international enterprise has become a worldwide threat. Every year, thousands of men, women and children fall into the hands of traffickers. Human traffickers prey on the most innocent and vulnerable people, forcing them into modern-day slavery for the purpose of exploitation—prostitution or other forms of sexual exploitation, slavery, forced labor or service, servitude or the removal of organs.

Although human trafficking is a worldwide problem; a staggering 100,000 children are thought to be involved in the sex trade in the United States alone. Human trafficking is a growing problem right here in Ohio. The most common age in Ohio for youth to become victims of child sex trafficking is 13 years old. A recent study found that out of 207 individuals, 49 percent were under 18 years old when they were first trafficked. Research shows that youth who have been sexually abused or are repeat runaways are more likely to be victims of human trafficking. For this reason, the child welfare system is a key community partner in the identification and service of at-risk teens.  

Building upon Attorney General Richard Cordray’s Trafficking in Persons Study, Attorney General Mike DeWine launched the Human Trafficking Commission in August 2011. The Human Trafficking Commission includes elected and appointed officials, religious groups, members of local, state, and federal law enforcement, public and private social agencies, and schools. This group meets regularly to find ways to help victims and prosecute traffickers.

The Human Trafficking Commission was a major contributor in the passing of House Bill 262, more commonly known as the Safe Harbor Law. This law improves care for juvenile trafficking victims. The Safe Harbor Law increased human trafficking charges to a first-degree felony with a mandatory prison term of at least ten years. Upon release from prison, human traffickers are also required to register as sex offenders. This law also allows records of adult human trafficking victims to be expunged.

The Human Trafficking Commission can’t stop human trafficking alone. At Family & Children Services of Clark County, we make the safety and well being of children our number one concern. Citizens are encouraged to report suspected cases of child abuse, neglect, dependency or human trafficking, especially when observing the following:

  • Extreme security measures locking employees in—barbed wire inside of a fence, bars covering the insides of windows.
  • Individuals who seem controlled or manipulated—not allowed to speak for themselves or go out in public alone.

  • At nail salons, look for sleeping bags or a living space that may indicate employees are living where they work. Another indication may be if workers at this salon are driven to the store in groups all at once.
  • When communicating with workers, answers seem scripted or rehearsed.
  • Workers are very young, timid or particularly submissive.
  • Young children serving in a family restaurant.
  • An older male checking into a hotel with a young female or females.
  • The use of slang terms for “pimp,” including “boyfriend” or “daddy”.
  • A tattoo of a man’s name or a slang name on the female’s neck, leg, or shoulder.
  • An individual who carries multiple cell phones, laptops, etc.

To learn more about child abuse prevention, visit Family & Children Services (FCS) or the Clark County Child Advocacy Center (CAC) online.

 

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Wear Blue Campaign

A report of child abuse is made every ten seconds.

Every year, six million children in the United States experience child abuse and neglect. The United States looses a staggering five children every day to abuse-related deaths—the highest of any industrialized nation.

Clark County Family and Children Services ask you to join us as we stand up and support the prevention of child abuse. Wear Blue is a statewide awareness campaign that takes place during Child Abuse Prevention Month, on the second Wednesday of every April. We encourage families, friends, neighbors, colleagues, organization staff, school personnel, students, volunteers and others to Wear Blue on April 10, 2013, to show their support.

History

In 2011, Stark County Job & Family Services decided to promote “Wear Blue to Work” (WB2W) day instead of holding a pinwheel planting ceremony for Child Abuse Prevention Month in April. Local businesses and partners were enlisted to encourage employees to wear blue to work on one day in April, take group photos, and publish them to the agency’s (and the company’s) Facebook page. In conjunction with the one-day event, the agency opted to use the image of a blue pinwheel instead of a blue ribbon to represent child abuse prevention.

In 2012, Public Children Services Association of Ohio and its committee of public information officers across the state adopted “Wear Blue to Work” as a statewide campaign focused on grassroots outreach to community businesses and other partners. The campaign was a huge social media success, improving the number of “likes” on agency Facebook pages, encouraging “water-cooler conversations,” and giving supporters of child abuse prevention a symbolic action behind which to rally. The campaign was successful at the state level too, as Governor John Kasich, legislators, and other officials participated by wearing blue and sharing photos with their constituents and communities.

This year, the committee has rebranded the campaign as “Wear Blue. Child Abuse Is Preventable,” and has earmarked the second Wednesday of every April for the “Wear Blue” observance going forward. In dropping “to work,” we recognize that individuals can participate in raising awareness by wearing blue anywhere—to work, to school, to a community event or meeting, and even at home.

Why Blue?

While blue has been adopted by a number of causes (see Wikipedia, the blue ribbon), it has long been associated with child abuse awareness, often using a solid light blue ribbon. Among certain advocacy organizations, the ribbon is sometimes worn as a braided bracelet by survivors of violent physical or sexual child abuse in memory of victims. Navy blue is also associated with human trafficking and sex slavery awareness. Because of the association with child abuse awareness, “Wear Blue” has become the basis of this campaign, and the second Wednesday of each April has been designated as “Wear Blue Day.”

Clark County Family and Children Services encourages you to show your support and wear blue on April 10th—take pictures of your group and share it on our Facebook page. Together, we can bring awareness to the prevention of child abuse! 

We recently spoke to Tracy Perks, the independent living coordinator for Clark County Family and Children Services, and she shared with us a little bit about her role and how the Independent Living program helps foster kids in Clark County.

How do you determine which foster child gets independent living services?
All foster children can receive independent living services. We want to provide services to them in any way we can.

What are the services provided to 15-18 year olds?

The big indicator that helps us determine what services a child needs is how they score on the Daniel Memorial Institute Assessment.
The first category on the assessment is money management. We help the youth set up a bank account. This helps the youth start a savings account, and then when they start working they can open a checking account. We also help them make a budget.

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Category 2 is food management. We try to help them realize that they can’t eat out all the time and also try to instill the value of using coupons and eating healthy meals at home.

Personal appearance is category 3. Most know how to care for themselves, but others may have developmental disabilities, and they need more help.

Health is category 4 on the assessment. We educate and train youth in foster care on finding a doctor and making medical appointments. While in the program, the youth continue receiving medical coverage. Homemaking is category 5. We emphasize the importance of how to keep a clean and safe home.

Transportation is the next category. We help the youth learn how to use the bus system, and we can help pay for driver’s education. Once the youth turns 18 and they have their driver’s license, if they have $2,000 in their savings account, we will match that amount to help the youth purchase a car. One girl we worked with had $2,200 in her savings account, and the car she was looking at was $4,500. The gentleman who was selling the car lowered the price, and the girl paid half and we paid half to help her buy her first car. The youth are responsible for paying for their own car insurance, but we assist in helping them get that set up.

In addition, we have a certain amount of money set aside in our budget for extracurricular activities at school, school trips, senior pictures and other graduation costs. It is something that we enjoy doing because we do not want our youth to miss out on those important events in a teenager’s life.

Education planning is category 7. For education planning, the big thing is getting the youth to graduate, making sure they are in the right classes, and making sure the students are receiving tutoring if they need it. I have a packet for juniors and seniors titled “How foster kids can get into college?” and it shows them what they should be doing every month during their junior and senior year to prepare for college.

We make sure school counselors are in contact with us, college applications are being filled out and financial aid paperwork is getting done. We also take the youth on college tours. We continue education planning all the way through college to achieve the best possible outcome. We would not be doing our youth justice if we stopped providing services to them, halfway.


Do you have any success stories you would like to share?

A couple girls who are sisters come immediately to mind. They came from a challenging family background and had been involved with our system for a long time along with their brothers.

Both of the girls graduated from high school with honors. One of the sisters received her LPN from Clark State. She participated in our independent living program and had her own apartment through Choices. She successfully completed the program and is working towards her RN license.

The other sister is doing the same thing. She is in the independent living program, has her apartment through Choices, works at a nursing home almost full time and goes to Clark State full time. She will graduate this year from Clark State with her LPN license.

These two girls are a big part of the reason why I do what I do. Knowing our Agency helped them achieve their goals to become successful citizens and make a change within their family dynamic. That is all the thanks I need!

We recently spoke to Tracy Perks, the independent living coordinator for Clark County Family and Children Services, and she shared with us a little bit about her role and how the Independent Living program helps foster kids in Clark County.

Can you tell us about your position with the independent living program in Clark County?
Since I started working here almost 15 years ago, I have worked in the independent living area. I was promoted to the coordinator position in June.

We are currently serving 35 emancipated and independent living youth. Emancipated youth are children who aren’t in foster care and are between the ages of 18-21 (sometimes 22). Independent living youth are those between the ages of 15-18, and we work with them to prepare them to live independently.

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We work with Choices Inc. to help our youth find and stay in an apartment. The youth start paying for rent and utilities in order to get them to be able to pay for these things long-term. Our program is designed so that youth can become self-sufficient with their own apartment, furniture and stable credit. We do everything we can to help them be self-sufficient.

Can you explain how the program works?
We start with youth ages 15-21. Each of the youth completes the Daniel Memorial Institute Living Assessment for Life Skills before they begin the program. This assessment evaluates a young person’s independent living skills, and based on the results the institute gives an exercise packet to the youth and the foster parent they are living with. We then use that assessment tool to help us develop an independent living plan which consists of education, independent living classes, employment, money management, social and relationship building skills, etc.

As part of our program, the emancipated youth participate in an independent living group once a month through Choices. For independent youth, we help them find jobs and provide them with coaching. We are dedicated to helping the kids complete high school and graduate. We also encourage post-secondary education and take them on college tours and visits. We help them do the financial aid paperwork. Many of them don’t know that their status as a foster child qualifies most kids for a $5,500 Pell Grant through their FAFSA financial aid application.

Read our next post to find out more about the Independent Living Program and how it helps foster kids bridge the gap from foster care to adulthood.

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