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'Beyond Your Imagination' aims to give Hamilton County teens in foster care new experiences

TQL Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio FC Cincinnati
Posted at 1:18 PM, May 25, 2023

CINCINNATI — Hamilton County officials announced a new program Thursday to help expose children in foster care to diverse and fun experiences — like seeing Taylor Swift in concert and attending an FC Cincinnati game.

Officials took to a podium inside TQL Stadium and said kids will have the opportunity to join youth soccer camps and go see the Orange and Blue play, among other activities still being formed through partnerships with regional organizations like FCC.

"Our internal team will work with our foster care network partners and our kids to find out the level of interest they have, what they're interested in — we're going to ask their opinion, we're going to get feedback from them about what they want to see," said Michael Patton, director of Hamilton County Job and Family Services.

One of those activities, announced by Hamilton County Commissioner Stephanie Summerow Dumas, will be going to see Taylor Swift in concert when she packs Paycor Stadium on July 1. Teens selected by random raffle will be able to watch the show from the county's suite within the stadium, Dumas said.

"These young people have many life experiences, some I don't think adults could even handle," said Dumas. "We want to be a part of having the good memories outweigh the bad. We want to make sure that youth are given the opportunity to attend a play, to go to a museum, to experience a summer camp."

Already available are opportunities for kids to enroll in area football camps, attend a future show at the Children's Theater and field trips to the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.

"There's so much going on right now — youth gun violence and other things and we're going into the summer months," said Alicia Reece, Hamilton County Commission president. "We want to make sure that our programs are positive programs, opportunities to connect with fun activities like FC Cincinnati games and other cultural activities to expose our young people to positive activities so we can get our program to them before the street program gets ahold of them."

The program, called Beyond Your Imagination, was Dumas' brain child and was funded in part thanks to $250,000 in funds from the federal American Rescue Plan.

Opportunities within the program are available to kids 14 years old and older, and the activities kids participate in won't cost families anything. The experiences will be available to teens in a multitude of placement types, like foster care, kinship care and independent living.

Hamilton County Job and Family Services currently has roughly 1,800 kids in its legal care; around 25% of those are 14 years of age or older.

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