"Connecting the Dots" - Thursday, June 13, 2013

Some startling facts show that foster youths are one of our nation’s most vulnerable populations once they “age out” of the system, but a new Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) program called, Connecting the Dots” has been established to help Ohio’s foster children.

Montgomery County was selected as one of the five pilot locations for the Connecting the Dots initiative. This program is open to former foster youth and current youth between the ages of 15 and 21 who are in the custody of Children Services. The Montgomery County pilot includes four counties in our region -- Montgomery, Greene, Clinton, and Preble. Many youth will get an overview of Connecting the Dots at the Regional Conference on Thursday, June 13, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m at Sinclair Community College.

“A total of 132 youth emancipated from our custody in 2012,” said Debra Downing, Assistant Director, Montgomery County Children Services Division. “Lacking a strong role model or a family to lean on, these young people can face so many obstacles. It can be very challenging, and we are excited to have additional funding and resources to assist young people as they move to independence.”

Foster youth at the Regional Conference will attend informative workshops and hear from compelling guest speakers on topics such as “Selling Yourself for Employment,” “Future Financial Success,” "From Foster Care to Anywhere” and “Coaching for Life,” to name a few. The keynote speaker is Rhonda Sciortino, former foster youth and author of “From Foster Care to Millionaire,” and the closing speaker is Michael Sanders, national Edutainer and speaker. Employer partners will be at the conference to consider candidates for job shadowing and employment opportunities.

Another component of the program is linking youth with mentors. Big Brothers Big Sisters is our mentoring partner. If someone is interested in being a mentor for our youth involved in this program, please call Big Brothers Big Sisters at 220-6850.

Consider these alarming national statistics on youth who age out of foster care:

81 percent of males are arrested by age 24

48 percent of females become pregnant by age 19

33 percent receive neither a high school diploma nor a GED (compared to fewer than 10 percent of same-age peers not in the foster care system)

33 percent have household incomes below the poverty level (three times national rate)

25 percent experience post-traumatic stress disorder (twice the rate of Iraqi War veterans)

22 percent experience homelessness

According to a report by the National Governors Association, providing better support to these young adults would save more than $5.7 billion over their lifetime by reducing demand for public assistance and criminal justice. Most funding for the Connect the Dots program comes from a $5.8 million Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) Demonstration Grant.

“Connecting the Dots will be impactful because it brings together employment specialists from Workforce Development, mentors from Big Brothers Big Sisters, caseworkers from Children Services and current and former foster youth – all with the common goal of providing education, employment and mentoring services to support our youth to succeed in their transition to adulthood,” said Geraldine Pegues, Assistant Director-Human Services for the Office of Family and Children First. “Our foster youths and our community will surely benefit.”

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