Butler County Children Services celebrates graduates for their perseverance

Butler County Children Services holds a graduation party every year for foster children in their care. They celebrated 12 graduates on June 9. Pictured here are Abby Sexton, independent living and emancipation coordinator and Kira P. who graduated from Miami University's Hamilton campus .CONTRIBUTED

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Butler County Children Services holds a graduation party every year for foster children in their care. They celebrated 12 graduates on June 9. Pictured here are Abby Sexton, independent living and emancipation coordinator and Kira P. who graduated from Miami University's Hamilton campus .CONTRIBUTED

Foster children face uphill battles every day of their lives so when they win one like graduating high school, trade schools or college Butler County Children Services celebrates them in a big way.

Last week BCCS had its annual graduation party to honor a dozen students who beat the odds, nine graduated from high school, one from college and two earned their certificates at trade schools. Abby Sexton, independent living and emancipation coordinator, always says it is her favorite day on the job and it is remarkable because most kids don’t get that far.

“Not only have they battled all of the stuff that goes with coming into foster care, whether it’s abuse, maltreatment, delinquency issues, mental health issues they also had to battle going into a pandemic,” Sexton said. “Then coming out of a pandemic and trying to function in this new normal that we all seem to have to navigate through. I just think it’s pretty phenomenal they all stayed, they pushed through and they persevered, despite any obstacle that was thrown at them, they finished.”

She said all of the graduates were older than 18 and “one of the biggest things that stands out about this class they all had the opportunity just to walk away and they didn’t.”

The agency puts up colorful decorations, they have a potluck lunch and cake, their social workers tell stories about their charges. They also get a huge laundry basket of things they’ll need going forward on their own, like laptops, pots and pans, can openers, dish towels, vacuums “all those things I think so many of us take for granted they are just going to be there.”

She said two students are going into vocational programs, one is considering college and the rest are going to work. This year 391 foster kids graduated statewide.

ExploreButler County foster kids: 12 more ‘graduate’ during annual celebration

Kira Pierson was the college graduate, she earned a criminal justice degree in forensic investigations from Miami Hamilton. She has been working as an EMT for the city of Cincinnati and has applied for a job with county coroner there. She spent a year interning with Butler County Coroner Dr. Lisa Mannix and can’t wait to get back in that field because she “really, really loved being an autopsy tech intern.”

“Everybody is like I don’t know how you do it but I love it. I love giving the family answers. Autopsies are so important, I don’t think there is really closure with a traumatic death, but answers are always really nice to have,” she said. “My biological grandma, her mom was actually murdered by Donald Harvey the serial killer and she didn’t know for 17 years, sort of growing up and seeing how she had to navigate all the emotions that came with that got me interested in true crime and victim advocacy.”

Pierson entered the system in 2012 when she was 13 because her biological mother couldn’t care for her anymore. She said her grandmother wasn’t well and couldn’t take her and neither could her biological father. There were no foster parents available so she was put in a group home placement.

“I had a really awful experience there, we weren’t even allowed to have toilet paper in the bathrooms there, you’d have to ask a staff member every time you had to go, they had locks on the refrigerators, you were forced to share a room with strangers, it was very, very chaotic,” she said.

After about two years she went to live with her foster mom Trish Schumann in Fairfield who she said is truly “amazing” and she still calls her “brother” Matt Schumann, who is the Fairfield Twp. assistant fire chief every day.

She took advantage of the state sponsored program called Bridges at age 17 and continued to received help from BCCS. The program extended the foster care emancipation age to 21 and provides housing and support to kids who would otherwise be on their own at age 18.

“Everybody at Children Services is still a massive part of my life,” Pierson said. “They’re all just really amazing people there.”

BCCS Director Shannon Glendon said they are very proud of all the graduates and they strive to help these kids “reach their full potential.”

“They really need our best work effort to connect them to relationships with safe adults that last beyond their 18th birthday and to career and educational programs to help them build a future,” Glendon said. “Graduating high school or college or a certificate are all steps toward that goal. We are very proud of them for their accomplishments.”

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