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Thursday, May 12, 2011

Fostering Futures and Changing Lives

Last week I blogged about the reality experienced by youth who age out of foster care. This is a reality for youth aging out of foster care in Howard County every year. May is National Foster Care Month. While the numbers of youth in foster care today are lower than in the past the fact is that for many older foster youth the options of returning to family or being adopted grows smaller with every year they spend in foster care. This reality is one that my wife and I lived with for 10 years as we fostered teenage girls, many from Howard County. Contrary to common belief youth don’t end up in foster care for minor offenses by parents. Only the most severe cases of neglect and abuse cause children to be removed from parents. And only when there is no relative available to care for the children are they placed with a foster parent. For older youth who have spent years in foster care the teen years can easily be spent in a group foster home outside the County. Did you notice I said “outside the County?” Howard County has no group home for foster youth. That is a sad reality for this resource rich county. I remember years ago there was an agency that wanted to have a group home in the county but it raised so much community opposition that the agency backed off.

We all want to believe that our community is safe from the ills we see in Baltimore or DC and that somehow our children don’t have to worry about crime, gangs, poverty, abuse and neglect. But wealth and education don’t protect our children from these experiences. Our experiences in fostering Howard County youth makes me realize that today there are young people in our community who are experiencing abuse and neglect in ways that should concern us all.

While the need for good foster and adoptive parents will always be with us for most people this is not a realistic or appropriate task to undertake. The stress and challenges of fostering should not be underestimated. So what can a person do to address some of the needs of youth in foster care? A new program, Fostering Futures, is being launched in the county next Thursday at an event at the Howard County Courthouse in Ellicott City.

The following is the announcement of this event. If you can try to attend the event. If you can’t consider contacting the VOICES office at the phone number below and consider volunteering for this new program. Share this information with your friends, colleagues, church, synagogue or community organization. We can collectively as a community respond to ensure that no foster youth in Howard County has to leave foster care alone.

Launch of “Fostering Futures; A Community Resource Network for Youth Aging Out of Foster Care in Howard County”;

When: May 19th at noon

Where: The Circuit Courthouse at 8360 Court Ave., Ellicott City, MD

Contact: Pam Grady, Voices for Children, Howard County’s Court Appointed Special Advocate Program, 410-740-0933

Website: www.fosteringfutureshoco.org

A new exciting initiative for youth, who will be aging out of foster care in Howard County, will be launched in a special announcement at the Howard County Circuit Court on May 19th.

Fostering Futures, an initiative of Voices for Children ( The Court Appointed Special Advocate Program, CASA) and in partnership with Department of Social Services, is an network of caring individuals and organizations in Howard County who have come together to support youth who will be “aging out” of foster care. Through the network and personal contacts resources will be sought to meet the needs of older foster youth, who have no family support. The areas of concentration are employment, housing, transportation, education, health care, financial literacy and personal skill training. Individuals and organizations will receive a monthly email that will list the needs of youth transitioning into adulthood. Community members will then respond if they can meet the need or be willing to network with their community contacts to do so.

By establishing a supportive network we can ensure that a Howard County youth leaving foster care don’t have to face the challenges of becoming independent alone, says Chris McCabe, former secretary of the Maryland Department of Human Resources and chair of Fostering Futures Board of Advisors. No other CASA in the state is offering this outreach service and this effort can be seen as a model for other jurisdictions.

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