Author speaks on experience in foster care

Correspondent photo / Nancilynn Gatta Regina Alston was the keynote speaker at the 19th annual Pinwheels for Prevention event Wednesday at Boardman Park’s Lariccia Family Center. Alston, a former Mahoning County Children Services foster youth prior to her adoption, is founder and CEO of Lena’s Adventures. She wrote books with the main character Lena looking at foster care through the eyes of a child.

BOARDMAN — As part of National Child Abuse Prevention Month, Mahoning County Children Services in conjunction with Akron Children’s Hospital’s Child Advocacy Center held the 19th annual Pinwheels for Prevention event at Boardman Park’s Lariccia Family Center.

A portion of the agenda Wednesday presented the success of their programs with keynote speaker and a former Mahoning County Children Services foster care youth Regina Alston, who is now an author of children’s books about foster care expressed through the view of her main character, Lena.

Alston said her life began similarly to the lives of the children in present-day foster care, but she was lucky to be adopted.

“I don’t want kids in foster care to think that they are just thrown away, that they don’t matter because they do matter,” she said.

She added, “I read somewhere that adopting one child won’t change the world, but it will change the world for one child.”

Since Alston experienced foster care and adoption, she said it wasn’t hard for her to give back now as an adult. She is the founder and CEO of the nonprofit Adventures of Lena, which provides with the help of vendors and birthday cakes for foster care and group home children, plus holds pajama drives for foster care, adopted and less fortunate children. She also gives out Lena’s Next Step Trunk four times a year with essential supplies for a teen phasing out of foster care.

“It takes a community. It takes a village. It takes all of us to help children in foster care,” Alston said.

Jennifer T. Kollar, Mahoning County Children Services information officer, said she received one of her favorite work phone calls the first time she talked to Alston.

“Regina called out of the blue and told me that she lived in Richmond, Virginia, but she had been in foster care in Youngstown. She was going to be in the area and she had pajamas to donate to our program,” Kollar said.

Through that initial phone call, Alston also donated to the Christmas program and has stayed in touch with the organization where she was once a child in foster care.

As part of the event, the Community Spotlight Award was awarded to Linda Romisher.

For six years, Romisher has made unique Easter baskets for foster care children. She has also provided backpacks and school supplies for back to school.

Romisher said the work she does is to just “be kind to each other.”

Rick Tvaroch, executive director of Mahoning County Children Services, said the event was about hope and thriving for the 276 children presently in the agency’s foster care.

“Every child deserves to be in a safe, forever home surrounded by adults who prioritize their comfort and well-being,” he said.

At the entrance of the park were hundreds of pinwheels. Each one represented the positive impact adults made when they helped abused or neglected children and provided a voice or advocated for them.

The purpose of the pinwheel luncheon was to present the positive impacts children services and Akron Children’s center have made in the lives of foster care children, the efforts the public have done to make a difference in a child’s life and to reinforce there is still work to be done until every child has their safe forever home.

Angela Mistovich, coordinator at the Child Advocacy Center, which evaluates and treats children suspected of abuse or neglect, gave their contact information as 330-746-9151.

Kollar reminded attendees that anyone can report child abuse or neglect. The phone number to call is 855-642-4453.

Mahoning County has their own report line, which is available 24/7 through Mahoning County Children’s Services. The phone number is 330-941-8888.

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