November 2016

Meet  Zyvaunte
Zyvaunte loves pizza. It's, by far, his favorite food. He likes listening to music on YouTube and Pandora, likes to read and loves watching Tyler Perry's Madea movies.

He hopes to one day travel to Las Vegas and Los Angeles.

He has quite a list of things he plans to become in the future: a firefighter; basketball player and baseball player. He likes to play basketball, dance and have fun during recess. He admits homework can be a little bit challenging for him, but he works hard at it.

Asked to describe himself in three words, he chose resilient, funny and athletic.

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Levy money funds services to abused, neglected children

We are a week away from a county-wide vote on the Children's Services Levy (Issue 53). I am asked nearly every day what the levy is and how the money is used.

The levy raises funding for services to abused and neglected children, as well as their families. The levy generates about $40 million a year. That local money is used to match federal funding and bring in about $40 million more. So, for a little more than $1 a week (for the owner of a $100,000 home), our community is able to generate about $80 million to serve children and families.

We helped nearly 16,000 children last year with services designed to keep them safe in their home (mental health treatment, substance abuse treatment, domestic violence programs, parenting classes and more), or with foster care and adoption so they are safe outside the home. These services are mandated by the federal government and must be provided.

The levy supports more than our agency. It supports a system of public and private agencies that protects disadvantaged children of Hamilton County. The system includes Hamilton County's Juvenile Court, the Hamilton County Prosecutor's Office and many private and public child-serving agencies (such as foster placement, mental health services, emergency housing, training, parenting services).

Meet The Hollidays: one of our Adoption Day families
The Hollidays have been foster parents since 1988. Dozens of children have lived in their home.

But not until now did they decide to adopt - Macario is just that special.

"We weren't going to adopt," Esther Holliday said. "But he's so lovable. He's adorable. He lets you love him."

Macario, 12,  will officially become a Holliday on Friday, during Hamilton County's annual National Adoption Day ceremony. He'll be among 14 children joining seven families.

Similar ceremonies will go on all across the country throughout November, which is National Adoption Month. This year's theme: We Never Outgrow the Need for Family - Just Ask Us. That reflects a focus on finding families for older kids, many of whom linger in foster care until they age out of the system.

Celebrating adoption each November started in 1995, when then-President Bill Clinton expandedPresident Ronald Reagan's Adoption Week to the entire month. The effort continues as an  initiative of the Children's Bureau, which is a division of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

Hamilton County averages about 100 adoptions a year. Last year's special  November ceremony was the biggest - 17 children joined eight families.

This year, we're collecting shoes

Each of the past two years, we have been fortunate to benefit from a huge donation drive sponsored by Sibcy Cline and Julie Phillippi-Whitney.

The first year brought us thousands of suitcases for foster kids who shouldn't have to carry their belongings in garbage bags. Last year, we gave out thousands of hats, scarves and gloves collected in the community.

This year, these wonderful organizers have decided to collect new shoes. We look forward to the collecting and giving shoes to our kids.