By Patrick Seidl, CNP – Maryland CASA Association
To better prepare foster youth for their transition out of foster care, Maryland CASA Association will be holding its first ever Foster Youth Summit on Saturday, February 28th at the University of Maryland School of Social Work from 9:00 am until 3:30 pm.
“We have received a lot of feedback from our CASA volunteers who serve older foster youth,” said Ed Kilcullen, State Director of Maryland CASA Association. “They have increasingly expressed the need to better prepare our older youth for life after foster care, so we decided to take action and organize a summit to address those needs,” Kilcullen added.
Maryland CASA Association’s Foster Youth Summit, entitled Pathways to Independence, is a one-day event for older foster youths (14-21 years) and their Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteers to learn about the services and resources available to help them as they prepare to transition out of the foster care system to independent living.
The summit will provide a unique opportunity for foster youths and their advocates to receive this information together rather than separately. “Typically, we train our CASA volunteers – and the foster youths go to independent living classes on their own,” Kilcullen said. “The summit will allow them to attend together so that advocates may assist the youths in absorbing all of the information and putting it into action rather than becoming overwhelmed by it.”
To further ease the youths’ transition to living independently, Maryland CASA will be distributing a “Key Essentials Toolkit” to each of the youth in attendance. These toolkits are designed to meet the basic needs of anyone who will soon be on their own. The organization is seeking donations from local businesses and distributors for the toolkits.
*Tyshania Campbell, Maryland CASA Intern and Towson University Student who helped to secure the donations from Boxed Wholesale.
“These young people often don’t have parents or other caring adults in their lives to help them set up their first apartment or go off to college,” said Patrick Seidl, Maryland CASA’s Development & Communications Associate, who is coordinating the toolkit project. Maryland CASA has received a supply of toothbrushes and other dental hygiene items from SunStar G.U.M. Brand and snack packages from New Jersey-based Boxed Wholesalers but is still in need of other personal hygiene items (soaps, deodorant, lotions, shaving cream, combs and hairbrushes, etc.), household items (dish towels, dish soap, cooking utensils, etc.), as well as flash-drives, planners/calendar books and other school and office supplies.