Hamilton County Foster Youth and Foster Family Receive Statewide Recognition

A Hamilton County Job and Family Services foster teen has received a state award for his ability to overcome great life obstacles, while a county foster family has been recognized for its outstanding service to the child welfare system and to one of its foster children.

Shaquielle Crutchfield was awarded the Rising Up and Moving On award by the Public Children Services Association of Ohio today for demonstrating success in the face of adversity. Crutchfield entered the county’s child welfare system at age 4, along with his five brothers.

Linda Frazier, a Hamilton County foster mother for the past decade, was honored by the association with the Family of the Year award. Frazier was cited for her outstanding work caring for a foster child who had severe physical disabilities that ultimately took her life in June, shortly after the young lady’s high school graduation.

“Both of these stories are tremendous stories of perseverance and inspiration, and they are representative of the families and young people we work with on a daily basis,” said Moira Weir, director of JFS.  “Shaquielle and Linda are true examples of people who, no matter what might be thrown at them, will always see it as a stepping stone to help them to a better place.”

Crutchfield was surrounded by violence, drugs and mental illness as a young boy. He experienced a failed adoption while in the child welfare system and battled his own mental health issues. His grades suffered at school and he shuttled between foster care homes throughout his teens.

But he wrapped himself in his church family and formed his own support group. Saddled with a 1.8 grade point average before his senior year, he scored all As and Bs his final year and graduated from Woodward Career Technical High School. He attends University of Cincinnati’s Blue Ash campus, lives with a host family he met through his church and draws encouragement from his support team.

“I want to be a social worker,” he said. “I’m going to push myself. I want to show the world something. I want to be better than people say….Somebody in my family has to make it, why not me?”

ProKids, a non-profit agency that speaks up for foster children, was involved in Crutchfield’s case from the beginning. Kathy King of ProKids said during those ups and downs she saw something in Crutchfield.

“He was sad about the things that were going on, the rejection he felt, but there was a spark in him,” she said. Working with the ProKids Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteer, King stayed in his life and witnessed that determination come through. “From the time he was a little boy he would say ‘I am a good kid.’ And he is. Anyone else would have given up, but he kept going.”

Frazier, of Lucasville, worked as a nurse and cared for Syrina, who was then placed with a foster family. Syrina was born with cerebral palsy, scoliosis, vision problems and other medical problems. She became a foster child in Hamilton County just three months after she was born. Her mother was a teen-ager and could not care for all her medical conditions.

Frazier developed such a bond with the child that she became a licensed foster parent and moved Syrina into her home.

In spite of her medical problems, Syrina experienced a childhood much like any other lucky girl. She had birthday parties and tea parties. She went to Disney World. She was always dressed in cute outfits and often had her hair styled and nails polished. She spent Christmas at Great Wolf Lodge with Linda’s extended family.

Despite living more than two hours away, Frazier always brought Syrina to her numerous medical appointments.

Frazier, who also cares for three other medically fragile foster children, also made sure Syrina finished her special-needs classes so she could graduate from high school. Syrina graduated from Verne Riffe School in Portsmouth this year. Just two days later, Syrina died.

It was the end of a tremendous love story.

Syrina couldn’t talk, but “her eyes would light up when Linda or one of her family members would come into the room,” said Syrina’s Hamilton County Job and Family Services caseworker. “She loved Linda and Linda loved her.”

by J.D. Bruewer

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