January 2019
Antonio, 13, enjoys playing sports, especially basketball and football. He also likes to play video games.

He is looking for a family that can devote time and attention to him.

Thinking about your resolutions for the new year?
We ask that as you think about your goals for 2019, please consider becoming a foster parent.

We have kids who need you now.

Find more information at hckids.org.

Did you go see Rent?

A lot of people did during its run here just before Christmas - and they brought a lot of hats, gloves and scarves with them. Our bins for winter wear are filling up again.

Thank you to Broadway in Cincinnati for asking patrons to donate new, warm accessories and thank you to the patrons for bringing them. We are happy to have them for our kids in care.

"We are very thankful to Broadway in Cincinnati and its patrons for their wonderful support of our families and children," said Moira Weir, director of Hamilton County Job and Family Services. "As the weather turns, we see a big increase in the need for coats, hats, gloves and scarves. What may seem a small donation to someone can have a big impact on the quality of life for our community's most vulnerable residents."

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Helping LIFT people to self-sufficiency

Hamilton County Job and Family Services is excited to be part of a new effort to lift local families and support them on their way to self-sufficiency.

Project LIFT will launch in January. It's a $5 million, public/private effort to remove barriers to self-sufficiency and help families thrive.  Led by the Child Poverty Collaborative, LIFT aims to help 1,000 families (3,000 individuals) in its first year.

I have been involved with the Poverty Collaborative since its inception. I was asked to take a more active role over the past year and gladly accepted. Helping move people from poverty to self-sufficiency is important to everyone at the county, especially the Board of County Commissioners.

For JFS, much of this new effort is expanding on work we already do. We are already helping hundreds of thousands of county residents with food assistance, medical care, child care, employment services and more as they try to stabilize in emergency situations and move forward to a better place.

You will see those efforts in the LIFT project. They will be accompanied by private funding that will allow for more flexibility and case management services. The goal is to infuse resources into our most economically disadvantaged communities.

One example: our Millvale Project. We will house Hamilton County Job and Family Services staff in the neighborhood. Those on-site staff will provide all the services currently provided through our Community Link and Comprehensive Case Management and Employment Program to residents in that neighborhood, rather than have them visit offices downtown. We will partner with existing community resources to ensure that participants have access to all the services they need in their own neighborhood.

Looking forward to new partnership with Amber Gray

Amber Gray's life is one of successes, to be sure.

She was an All-American basketball player at Lakota West. She made the University of Tennessee Lady Vols team and played in 27 games as a freshman for legendary coach Pat Summitt. She then played at Xavier University and plays professionally. She'll soon be inducted into the Lakota West Firebirds Hall of Fame.

But it is also the adversity Gray faced that prompted her to start her  Where2Next foundation, which focuses on helping kids decide their next steps, whether that means in school, in sports or in life. After her first year at Tennessee, she had a brain aneurysm doctors found after shoulder surgery. The aneurysm had begun to hemorrhage, causing a stroke. She spent months in rehabilitation.

So she gets that life can be hard. She understands battling difficult circumstances. It's those lessons she hopes to bring to some of our older teens as they transition from life in foster care to life on their own.
Step one: Christmas to some of our kids in independent living. We always  appreciate holiday donations for our kids in foster care, but we don't often get things for our older teens. Gray helped change that this year.

We look forward to what we hope is a long-term mentoring relationship between our teens and this successful young athlete whose goal is to "leave a legacy greater than I was given."

We are so thankful for all your holiday help

We started the holiday season a little bit concerned after learning we wouldn't be getting our usual donations of bikes and Toys for Tots.

But supporters came through, as they always do - and we couldn't be more appreciative.

We got gifts for some of our teens from the St. Teresa of Avila church youth group, from Mandy Oaks and the TQL Cares foundation and from a group of young A Christmas Carol actors and their families. We got help for many of our kinship families through Jack's Closet at Clough United Methodist Church, which held a nice event so families could shop while the kids had breakfast and chatted with Santa.

We appreciate the help from Gate of Heaven Cemetery staff members, who bought gifts for a child being raised by his grandmother, and from Kate and Steve Conaton, who generously donated gift cards for some of our teens.

We also thank The Marvin Lewis Community Fund, the Cincinnati Bengals and First Financial Bank for helping us throw a party for kids in our custody. We could not have done it without First Financial's support.

We hope you all had wonderful holidays and we wish you all the best in 2019.