Ohio Fostering Connections is a coalition of advocates whose mission is to organize Ohio’s efforts to extend supports to foster youth through age 21.

‘Bridges’ Opens February 1, 2018

Implements Ohio House Bill 50


February 1, 2018


Bridges Program Extends Supports to Young Adults Aging Out of Foster Care

COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Child and Family Health Collaborative of Ohio has been awarded a grant from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) to provide housing and supportive services to young adults who age out of foster care.  The program, titled Bridges [Bridges Website Link], is scheduled to be implemented statewide on February 1, 2018.  It is authorized by Ohio House Bill 50, the Ohio Fostering Connections Act, which was signed into law by Governor John Kasich on June 13, 2016.

The Bridges program will be available to the approximately 3,000 young adults in Ohio who aged out of foster care, and are between the ages of 18 and 21, as they strive toward independence.  The Bridges program provides a package of services to help these young people prepare for college or a career and healthy living, as well as provide for their housing.  The direct services of Bridges will be carried out by a statewide network of community providers with expertise in working with foster youth and young adults making the transition to adulthood.

“This grant will accelerate our work to connect young adults in Ohio to the resources and services they need to live independently,” said Mark Mecum, CEO of The Child and Family Health Collaborative of Ohio, and its parent organization, the Ohio Association of Child Caring Agencies.  “Community agencies will be equipped with training, funding, and resources to help this vulnerable population of bright young people.  We are committed to the Bridges program’s success.”

A new website, bridgestosuccess.jfs.ohio.gov, has been launched by ODJFS for the Bridges program, to provide interested participants with enrollment and eligibility information.

The Collaborative is partnering with United Healthcare Services to provide network management of the statewide network of community providers, as well as administrative, marketing and communications services.

“Working with the best in class providers in The Child and Family Health Collaborative of Ohio we will help identify the right administrative and social support to help former foster youth in Ohio on their journey to adulthood,” said Tracy Davidson, CEO, UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Ohio.


Mark Mecum
CEO, Child and Family Health Collaborative of Ohio
614-461-0014 x2

About The Child and Family Health Collaborative of Ohio: The Collaborative was formed in March of 2017 to foster collaborations between health plans, government, and child and family service providers.  The Collaborative is a social enterprise of the Ohio Association of Child Caring Agencies, which itself was founded in 1973 as Ohio’s first nonprofit statewide child advocacy organization.

Governor Announces HB 50 Funding

Proposed Budget Prioritizes Ohio’s Most Vulnerable Young Citizens

Includes Funds for Youth Who Age Out of Foster Care

For Immediate Release: Jan. 30, 2017     PDF

COLUMBUS, OH – Today Gov. John Kasich unveiled his budget priorities, including funding to launch Ohio’s new program to support young people aging out of foster care. Established through the passage of Ohio House Bill 50 in 2016, the new statewide program, now known as “Bridges,” will provide housing and supportive services to youth who age out of foster care, and those adopted after age 16, through their 21st birthdays.

“We are grateful to the Governor for his continued support of the Bridges program and Ohio’s young people,” said Mark Mecum, director, Ohio Association of Child Caring Agencies (OACCA). “By securing this funding, we can implement an innovative program, based on best practices we know will change the status quo and give foster youth better opportunities to succeed.”

The Governor’s budget proposal funds the Bridges program at $11 million of state funds per year. The program, which was formerly referred to as Ohio Fostering Connections, is expected to launch in late 2017 and will serve up to 3,000 eligible young adults.

Each year, more than 1,000 Ohio youth “age out” of foster care at age 18. Bridges will include a package of programs to help these young people prepare for college or a career, as well as transitional housing options, including apartment programs, campus housing, and foster and host homes.

The program received bipartisan and nearly unanimous support in the legislature when House Bill 50 was passed. The bill became a state law on July 1, 2016, and since that time the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services has overseen the implementation planning effort. HB 50 also authorized a steering committee to help with implementation which includes representatives from OACCA, the courts, and foster youth and alumni.

In 2016, Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteers worked with 311 Ohio foster youth over the age of 18. “They are more likely to drop out of school, become parents before they are ready, experience homelessness, fall victim to human trafficking, be unemployed or incarcerated,” said Doug Stephens, executive director, Ohio CASA. “Thanks to the Governor’s support of this program, more resources will be available to help teens like these avoid these devastating consequences and become productive citizens.”

The investment in Bridges ultimately will save taxpayer dollars. According to national figures, on average, for every young person who ages out of foster care without continued support, communities pay $300,000 in social costs over that person’s lifetime.

Similar programs in 26 other states are showing benefits including higher levels of educational attainment, employment, and tax revenue, and lower levels of homelessness, incarceration, and unplanned pregnancies. In addition to state funds, the Ohio program leverages federal funds available through the Fostering Connection to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008.

Makkedah Cutshall is one of the former foster youth who advocated for the Bridges program.

“My brothers and sisters in foster care face many challenges and obstacles without having parental support like other kids,” she said. “With some added services to bridge the gap after we age out, we have a better opportunity to rise out of the circumstances we’re in due to no fault of our own. While the program won’t be in place in time to help me, I’m glad it will help other teens so they don’t have to face the difficulties I endured.”

HB 50 Implementation Recommendations

Released To Assist State Planning Council

boxBetween April and September 2016, the Ohio Fostering Connections coalition convened a planning process to produce recommendations to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services to assist with the implementation of Ohio House Bill 50.

The report, available here for download, was provided to the Planning Council established by ODJFS, as well as ODJFS leaders during October 2016.

HB 50 Implementation Symposium

October 11 – Columbus, Ohio


Earlier this summer, Governor John Kasich signed into law HB 50, which will establish a statewide program of housing and supportive services to young adults who age out of foster care.  We invite you to participate in a day-long Symposium on the implementation of this new program.  Participants will learn about the program’s implementation planning and best practices for providing extended care services to young people aging out of foster care.

The keynote speaker will be Thomas Alexander, President and CEO of the Fred Finch Youth Center in California.  A panel of  community service providers, county children services leaders, and foster care alumni will explore best practices in serving youth beyond 18.  The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services will present on the status of HB 50 implementation.  Mark Mecum of OACCA and Ohio Fostering Connections will present on the journey to HB 50’s passage and continued advocacy opportunities.  Finally, foster care alumni from ACTION Ohio will kick off and close the event.

When: Tuesday, October 11, 2016
Where: Embassy Suites-Dublin, 5100 Upper Metro Pl, Dublin, OH 43017
Registration: $50/per person – Register Online
Target Audience: Public and private child welfare agencies, supportive housing providers, juvenile courts, and advocates

Thank you to our generous sponsor:



We are pleased to announce that we joined Ohio Governor John Kasich on June 13, 2016 to witness the signing of HB 50.  Click here to read our press release to learn more.

Press Release: Stark Realities Face Foster Care Youth at Graduation Time

 Download the Full Press Release

May 6, 2016

Movement on legislation providing hope that Ohio Senate will pass bill to extend critical supports to youth aging out of foster care

COLUMBUS, OH – For most high school graduates, May is a time to celebrate an important milestone in their life, but, for many of Ohio’s foster youth, turning 18 and tossing their graduation cap in the air can also signal losing the supports-financial, educational, social and otherwise-that they count on. However, there is reason to believe that help is on the horizon for Ohio’s foster youth who find themselves “graduating out” at age 18.

The Ohio Senate Finance Committee held the first hearing on Amended Substitute House Bill 50 on April 26 and heard testimony from bill co-sponsors Rep. Dorothy Pelanda (R-Marysville) and Rep. Cheryl Grossman (R- Grove City). The bill creates a new program to serve youth who age out of foster care, and those adopted after age 16, through their 21st birthdays. The bill passed the Ohio House late last year.

A second Senate Finance Committee hearing, with testimony from Mark Mecum, Ohio Association of Child Caring Agencies; Michael Outrich, former foster youth; and Jen Schwitzgebel, Buckeye Ranch, is scheduled for next Tuesday at 3 p.m.
“This is an important step in our journey to provide a stronger foundation for Ohio’s foster youth,” said Mark Mecum, chair, Ohio Fostering Connections. “We applaud Sen. Scott Oelslager for taking action on the legislation, and we urge the full Senate to make this bill a priority before the session adjourns. Ohio’s most vulnerable young people need our help now.”

Each year, more than 1,000 Ohio youth “age out” of foster care at age 18. House Bill 50 includes a package of programs to help these young people prepare for college or a career, as well as transitional housing options, including apartment programs, campus housing, and foster and host homes.

What should be a gradual transition is often an abrupt loss that puts Ohio’s foster youth at risk of numerous negative outcomes. Research indicates that foster care alumni are at high risk of homelessness, unemployment, insufficient education, dependence on public assistance, human trafficking, incarceration and other devastating outcomes.

A companion bill, Senate Bill 240, was introduced last November by Ohio Sen. John Eklund (R – Munson Township).

Special Message from HB 50 Sponsor

State Representative Dorothy Pelanda

The Face of Foster Care


Fostering Connections Bill Introduced In Senate

Senator John Eklund

Senator John Eklund

The Ohio Fostering Connections Act is one step closer to reality, thanks to a bill introduced on November 10, 2015 by Ohio Sen. John Eklund (R – Munson Township).

Like House Bill 50, Senate Bill 240 will extend supports and services to foster youth through age 21, helping them prepare for college or a career, as well as providing a wide array of transitional housing programs including apartment programs, campus housing, and foster and host homes.

“Children in foster care in Ohio today face a cliff at age 18,” said Sen. Eklund. “I think we should do everything we can to help them transition to an independent life that is productive and purposeful, and I believe this legislation will help serve that end.”

Already receiving bi-partisan support, Senate Bill 240’s co-sponsors include Sen. Randy Gardner (R–Bowling Green), Sen. Capri S. Cafaro (D–Hubbard), Sen. Bill Seitz (R–Cincinnati), Sen. Tom Patton (R-Strongsville), Sen. Sandra R. Williams (D–Cleveland), Sen. Michael J. Skindell (D–Lakewood), Sen. Bill Beagle (R–Tipp City), Sen. Kevin Bacon (R–Village of Minerva Park), and Sen. Kenny Yuko (D–Richmond Hts.).

Senate Bill 240 and Ohio House Bill 50 will both move forward in their respective chambers. We are hopeful that the legislation will pass the General Assembly and be signed by the Governor by early next year. We expect implementation of the program to occur approximately twelve months after the legislation is signed into law.

Attorney General DeWine Announces Support

ddn102111dewineExcerpts from the Attorney General’s Guest Column in the Dayton Daily News are featured below.  Read the full column here.

“An extension would benefit both foster youth and taxpayers: According to a 2013 study by the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative, every young person who ages out of foster care costs communities an average of $300,000 in public assistance, incarceration, lost wages and more over that person’s lifetime.”

“I support extending support to foster youth from age 18 to 21. Ohio’s foster youth deserve all the assistance and preparation we can give them.”

Ohio Foster Alumni Speak Out


Highlights of Advocacy Day

Thank you to everyone who attended this great event!  Over 300 supporters attended and over 100 meetings with state legislators take place!

Watch the individual videos here.

Do You Support HB 50?

Print the flyer, snap a picture, and post on Facebook and Twitter with the hashtag #ohioreadyset21.


Briefing Held on Fostering Connections

On March 18, the Columbus Metropolitan Club held a briefing on Ohio Fostering Connections and HB 50, titled “Eighteen and Out: the Foster Care Dilemma”.  Fostering Connections supporters – Mark Mecum, Rep. Dorothy Pelanda, Jamole Callahan, and Dr. Jonathan Thackeray – were panelists. Thank you to the 130 central Ohio community leaders who attended the event and to the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption for their sponsorship!

Statehouse Press Conference on HB 50



To watch the press conference it its entirety, click here.

Generous Support is Provided By:
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Infographics Shine Spotlight on Ohio’s Challenge

1  2  aging_out_foster_care_in_ohio (2)