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Meet Aiden

Aiden likes school, where his favorite subject is art. He doesn't really like to play sports or watch them on TV.
He likes to play with cars and on his tablet. He plays by himself sometimes and likes to watch TV.

Aiden likes to go out to eat with his foster family - his favorite restaurant is McDonald's. He's a big fan of pizza, hamburgers, chicken nuggets and French fries. He would like to go to Disney World.

Aiden would like to have a small family with pets. He picks up after himself without prompting and straightens his bedroom. He likes to sweep the floor.

Case workers describe Aiden as a sweet, kind child.

Mentors needed in Lakota, Princeton, Hamilton districts

We're helping Amber Gray's Where2Next Foundation start its mentoring program for kids in Hamilton County foster care who live in these communities.
Gray is a professional basketball player who mentors two teens herself. She and her team hope to build and grow a mentoring program that helps teens now but also grooms them to become mentors in a few years.

Mentoring doesn't have to take a lot of time or cost a lot of money. If you can spare a few hours a month to just talk to a teen when they need advice, please let us know.
First Place for Youth:
Helping kids to adulthood

An exciting new program is coming to Cincinnati - First Place for Youth, for kids in foster care who age out of the system.

GreenLight Fund Cincinnati and Hamilton County Job and Family Services are teaming up to bring First Place for Youth to Cincinnati. First Place is an innovative program aimed at helping foster children using a youth-centered, trauma-informed approach. The program will help nearly 100 children a year in Hamilton County with housing, education and employment services.

First Place for Youth originated in California and has a proven track record in helping youth develop necessary skills for adulthood. Ninety-one percent of participating youth are employed when they graduate from the program. The education and workforce based program uses housing as a stabilizing force. Young people in the program live independently in apartments and receive wraparound support, education services, employment services and other help to become self-sufficient. This model will be operated by an existing, local non-profit organization that will be chosen later this month.

Moira Weir, director of Hamilton County Job and Family Services, said approximately 100 children a year "age out" of the foster care system at age 18 or 21, meaning they are not reunified with their biological parents or adopted by new parents. First Place for Youth anticipates helping nearly 350 young people over the next four years, 90 percent of local transition-age youth.

Weir's organization worked with the University of Cincinnati's Economic Center on a recent study that found children aging out of the local child welfare system eventually cost local residents $17.7 million in social expenses and lost productivity each year. Those costs are related to the youths' involvement in the criminal justice, homeless and health care systems, as well as lost productivity because they are not employed at the same level as their peers in the general population.

"You can imagine what life is like for an 18-year-old who is suddenly on their own with no family to turn to in times of trouble," Weir said. "Research shows these young people are more likely to drop out of school, be unemployed, suffer physical or mental health problems, become teen parents, end up in the criminal justice system - they are more likely to fall victim to a host of social problems. We are excited to supplement our existing services with this incredibly innovative program GreenLight is bringing to our community. We are grateful for a community-based approach to this problem."

Off to school with their new names

Hamilton County holds its special mass adoption day in November as part of national adoption month. But Probate Judge Ralph Winkler asked to have a second big celebration this year so he could help send kids back to school with their new last names already official.
Winkler presided over 10 adoptions Aug. 6, uniting those 10 children with five families. The morning was full of happy tears, especially when one boy, Tevin, surprised his new dad by taking his dad's first name as his middle name. Tevin and his mom, Heather Haas, had worked it out but kept it a surprise from dad Matt Haas.
Another family, the Durels, found out they were having twins just after they agreed to adopt two girls. So they officially became a family of six. They were featured on Good Morning America.

Winkler said it's tough enough to be in foster care and have to switch schools, so he wanted to give some of the kids in care one less thing to worry about for back-to-school time.

Luggage collections:
We take new

There has been several national news stories lately that talk about the need for luggage for kids in foster care.

It's true - luggage is a great thing for us to have. We like to keep a few pieces on hand for when kids transition to a new placement, go to college or age out of the system.
Unfortunately, we can't take used luggage. We held a Cases for Love luggage drive several years ago that brought in about 10,000 pieces - a fantastic response from the community. But many of the suitcases were dirty, broken and worn well beyond something we could give to one of our kids. Some of the luggage had mice and bugs, which caused problems at our office.

We learned how different everyone's definition of "nearly new" is! That's why we only take new donations now.

Thank you for looking out for the kids in care and their needs. If you have any more questions, please feel free to ask.