Knocking Cincinnati Out of the Top 5



Pictured above from left: Jeff Ruby, Britney Ruby Miller, Dillon Ruby & Caleb Miller

Jeff Ruby Foundation

 

It's always a feeling of pride to see your own town highlighted as one of the leaders in an industry or a desired tourist destination compared to other cities across the country. However, Cincinnati has found itself on one list that Jeff Ruby would prefer his hometown not be on.

“Cincinnati is constantly ranked near the top five cities in the country with the highest level of child poverty,” says Caleb Miller, executive director of the Jeff Ruby Foundation. “Hamilton County has close to 3,000 children in the foster care system.

“Jeff sees this as an urgent problem. The Jeff Ruby Foundation’s goal is to make a significant impact in this city and finally help take Cincinnati off that top five list. We want a permanent downtrend of childhood poverty in the Greater Cincinnati area.”

Miller sees that one way to help would be giving the foster care system some outside support.

“The system is broken,” says Miller. “But it’s not from a lack of people trying. It’s overloaded, it’s underfunded, it’s understaffed and it’s underappreciated. Four out of 10 children from Hamilton County who need to be placed into foster care are sent to homes outside of our county because there aren’t enough families willing to take on the challenge of a foster child, taking that child even farther away from their original home.

“We want these kids to be in a loving environment with a family that is equipped to love them. The trauma these kids have been through can be intense, and the child unwillingly brings that trauma into the foster family’s house. A lot of people aren’t prepared and what happens is that half of the foster families give up and quit during their first year of fostering. Cincinnati needs more families that want to take these kids and keep these kids. They need a stable and supportive environment that will set them up to win and stay out of poverty.”

The Jeff Ruby Foundation believes the key strategy in accomplishing this just goal of finding loving homes is collaboration.

“While doing research and surveying the landscape of these particular challenges, I found that there’s lots of work going on but not many of the problems are being solved,” explains Miller. “I really believe it’s a lack of strategy and collaboration. It’s exciting to bring these amazing people out there who are doing amazing things together with others who are also giving it their all. We’re not overly ambitious or think that we know how to fix everything, we’re just optimistic that all of these talented and gifted people can do it.”

One of these talented groups of people is the Cincinnati-based organization, Coalition of Care.

“When looking at our foster care system, our first collaboration with Coalition of Care is to identify and scale programs that virtually ensure the highest possible quality initial placements so that every other program in the system designed to help the child can actually be effective,” Miller says. “By infusing Coalition of Care with more resources, and equipping them with innovative, best practice models from around the country, we hope to make them the flagship bridge organization in the country.”

Again, the solution to finding quality placements is working together as a community. To find these communities, Miller has turned to faith-based groups. “Bridge organizations are the key,” explains Miller. “They are the bridge between vulnerable children who need a home and the faith communities that house healthy, loving, willing families within.

“Being a Christian myself, one of our core beliefs is to take care of the orphan and the widow,” Miller continues. “People want to help but many aren’t willing or aren’t able to take on the total responsibility of a volatile, hurt child. Together with Coalition of Care, we found a proven system that we are very hopeful will work in Cincinnati as it has in other American cities called wraparound support.”

Through this model, while one family invites the foster child into their home, the rest of the community will volunteer to support the foster family.

“So, if two families in a church raise their hands to become the adoptive parents, we believe the rest of the congregation will raise their hands to cook a meal for the foster family once a month, help with carpools, take the child to the park on Saturdays,” says Miller. “Instead of having foster families break under the pressure of having an often-traumatized child in their home, they become insulated by dozens of other families who are committed to loving this child.

“While not actually adopting the child, these families can still pitch in and help the child succeed. And these supporting families give the adopting families more confidence that they will indeed succeed. These kinds of programs have a 90 percent retention rate in other parts of the country.”

Through generous donations and fundraising galas, Miller is banking on the Jeff Ruby Foundation to accomplish its goal of getting Cincinnati kids out of the cycle of poverty.

“These kids deserve to grow up in a stable place instead of being constantly passed on to a new foster family,” says Miller. “A loving family and community are the ultimate game-changers for these kids.”

 

The Jeff Ruby Foundation is located at 700 Walnut St., Suite 200, Cincinnati OH 45202. For more information call 513.321.8080 or visit jeffrubyfoundation.org.