Maryland CASA Summit Prepares Youth to Exit Foster Care System
(Baltimore, Md.) – Nearly 50 youth attended Maryland Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) Association’s second annual Foster Youth Summit on Saturday, June 18 to develop the skills they will need to successfully transition out of the foster care system. The one-day event, held at the University Of Maryland School Of Social Work in Baltimore, was designed to help the youths, ages 14-21, to prepare for life after foster care by building their life skills and helping them learn about resources available to help.
“We were very happy with the turnout and the level of energy at the summit,” said Ed Kilcullen, Maryland CASA’s state director. “The summit fills a need for many Maryland youth who are preparing to leave the foster care system but lack the skills to live independently,” Kilcullen added. “We hope it will continue to grow as more youth learn about the event.”
Youth attendees were encouraged to attend with their assigned CASA volunteers, their social workers, foster parents or attorneys to aid them in processing the information they received during the day.
In the state of Maryland, more than half of children in foster care are over the age of 14, and roughly 27 percent are over the age of 17. Without family to rely on, these young people are at a higher risk of homelessness, joblessness, illness, incarceration, welfare dependency, early childbearing, and sexual and physical victimization.
Attendees began the day with a keynote address from Mr. Sadiq Ali, a speaker, author, entrepreneur, college professor, and founder of Millionaire Manners Academy, a training organization that teaches people to not take themselves too seriously but to love and respect yourself just the same.
“I can’t really say enough about how impressed I am with the young people of Maryland CASA after speaking with them at the Youth Summit; this also speaks volumes to the work CASA is doing!” commented Ali on the experience. “The engagement, excitement and hopefulness about the future that I saw in the young people’s faces was truly incredible. It also really goes to show that if we invest in our young people, it always pays off in the end.”
“The keynote address by Sadiq Ali was very uplifting and motivating,” commented Nancy Raskin, a CASA volunteer in Baltimore City. “[The keynote] gave the children the knowledge that they could rise up from any adversity to become whoever they want to be, and the workshop topics were all so pertinent that it was hard to make a choice about which ones to attend!”
In addition to the inspirational and captivating keynote address and workshops, youth had the opportunity to learn about various resources and practice their networking and job search skills by meeting with representatives of various companies, agencies and non-profit organizations represented during the event’s Resource Fair, including: The Maryland Department of Human Resources, Healthcare Access Maryland, Center for Adoption Support and Education (C.A.S.E.), Urban Playology, Baltimore Neighborhoods, Inc., Priority Partners MCO/Johns Hopkins Health Care, Inc., Lowe’s Home Centers of Greater Baltimore, and the University of Maryland STAR Track program, to name a few.
“The summit was such an important community event for adolescents to receive a variety of resources that will prove beneficial throughout life, and we had such an amazing time being a part of it,” commented Kurt Ragin, CTR Coordinator for the University of Maryland STAR (Special Teens At Risk) Track Program, an initiative of the University that provides medical and non-medical services to adolescents with a specialization within the LGBTQ community.
“We greatly appreciate the partnerships we have formed with the University of Maryland School of Social Work and the many agencies and businesses that were a part of our 2nd annual summit,” added Kilcullen.