Taking Action—12 Ways to Get Involved with Foster Youth
1) Become a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA)
A CASA volunteer provides a judge with carefully researched background of the child to help the court make a sound decision about that child's future. Each home placement case is as unique as the child involved. The CASA volunteer must determine if it is in a child's best interest to stay with his or her parents or guardians, be placed in foster care, or be freed for permanent adoption. The CASA volunteer makes a recommendation on placement to the judge, and follows through on the case until it is permanently resolved. The Maryland CASA office can be reached at 888) 833-2272 (toll-free) or at www.marylandcasa.org.
2) Become a Foster Parent
Foster Care is intended to be a temporary service providing short-term care and supportive services to children unable to live at home because of child abuse or neglect. Foster care placement services are also provided to disabled children needing residential care and or treatment. Whenever possible, children deserve to live in loving and stable family homes, and when they aren’t able to live safely with their own families, foster parents step in to fill an important role in the life of a child.
Twenty-three counties in Maryland and Baltimore City operate foster care and adoptions programs. Foster care caseworkers work with the birth and foster families to address the concerns that led to the child’s placement in foster care, and, whenever possible, to reunify the child with his mom and/or dad in a timely way. When a return home may not be possible, placement with relatives or the permanence of adoption may be pursued. Older youth may also receive services intended to expose them to the skills necessary to live independently after leaving care. Each foster care program also works to recruit, train, approve and retain foster care providers. Foster parents are needed for emergency care, respite, and long-term placements, including adoption. Older teens attending college welcome a family home for holiday visits.
The Maryland Department of Human Resources has a toll free number 1-888-MD-KIDS2 to call for information on fostering and adopting.
Additionally, a number of private agencies offer treatment foster care to youth who have greater needs than in regular foster care. Treatment Foster Care is a model of care that provides children with a combination of the best elements of traditional foster care and residential treatment centers. In Treatment Foster Care, the positive aspects of the nurturing and therapeutic family environment are combined with active and structured treatment. Treatment Foster Programs provide, in a clinically effective and cost-effective way, individualized and intensive treatment for children and adolescents who would otherwise be placed in institutional settings. To get a list of treatment agencies call the Maryland Association of Resources for Families and Youth (MARFY) at 410-974-4901.
3) Become an Adoptive Parent
Maryland’s foster parents also meet the requirements for adoption. When reunification with parents can’t be achieved in a timely way, foster parents may have the opportunity to make a permanent commitment to the child through adoption. Adoption means the legal and emotional acceptance into your family of a child not born to you. The child has the same legal rights as a child by birth, and needs the same the same unconditional love and understanding. When foster children have special needs and are adopted, they may qualify for an adoption subsidy and medical assistance to assist with meeting their needs. Older children may also qualify for tuition benefits for college.
Although fostering a child who may become legally free can be a route to adoption, you may also want to learn about other opportunities for adoption by contacting Adoptions Together at www.adoptionstogether.org.
4) Become A Respite Care Parent
Respite care is a service provided by trained respite care parents. It is intended to provide foster parents with a short term break in caring for a child with special needs so that they can get some time for themselves or to provide assistance in an emergency. Many foster care programs offer respite care to their foster parents and are in need of individuals and families who can provide this service. If you want to help children with special needs but are not able to make the time commitment necessary to become a foster parent this may be just for you.
To get a list of treatment agencies call the Maryland Association of Resources for Families and Youth (MARFY) at 410-974-4901 or the Maryland Department of Human Resources’ toll free number 1-888-MD-KIDS2 for information on becoming at respite care parent.
5) Become a Counselor at Camp Connect
Camp Connect, Maryland's camp to reunify siblings separated in foster care,
welcomes adult volunteer counselors for this year's camp session, to be held
this year from June 16th to June 22nd. For more information, please contact Judith Schagrin 410-853-3961, or Susan Loysen at 410-853-3741.
6) Become a member of a Citizen’s Review Board For Children
Citizen’s Review Boards for Children meet monthly in most jurisdictions, on the same entire day every month, during the workweek. Local review boards are required by law to review the case of each child in foster care every six months. The board makes recommendations to the juvenile court regarding the department of social services' permanency plan for a child; the adequacy of the progress towards making the permanent placement, and appropriateness of the child's current placement until a permanent family is achieved. However, the court has final responsibility for decisions regarding the child. The board may recommend that the child return to his/her natural parent or guardian; be placed for adoption; become independent; or be placed in care. There are currently 62 local review boards throughout the state.
The local boards consist of volunteer citizens chosen by a local selection committee, recommended by the Secretary of DHR and appointed by the Governor. A board has seven members each serving a four-year term. Each board reflects the various socio-economic, racial and ethnic groups of the jurisdiction served. To find out more information call 410-585-2240 or go to the website.
7) Donate children items to the Maryland Foster Parent Association
The Maryland Foster Parent Association is looking for people to donate new children car seats, cribs, strollers or children’s clothing for children coming into care. Gift cards to clothing stores would also be appreciated. You can make a direct donation to the Maryland Foster Parent Association at www.walkmehome.org and select the Baltimore, Maryland Walk. Finally the Association is looking for items that can be used for a raffle at the Conference in June. Call Bernice Newman at 1-866-635-4371.
8) Support former foster youth organize a Maryland Chapter of the Foster Alumni of America
Foster Care Alumni of America (FCAA), Maryland Chapter is a local division of FCAA National; a non-profit organization made up of former foster youth whose mission is to connect the alumni community in Maryland and to transform policy and practice, ensuring opportunity for people in and from foster care. They are looking to recruit current foster youth (18 -21) and former foster youth (22 and up) to be members of our local chapter. If you have ever lived in foster care, including kinship care, group homes and/or residential placements or if you did not experience foster care but believe in our mission, please join! Visit them online at www.fcaa-md.org.
They are in the early stages of our chapter establishment and are in need of help with the graphic design of our website and brochures, donations, and networking opportunities to reach out to organizations that have direct contact with aging-out foster youth or former foster youth. Please contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org if you're able to help!
9) Assist Foster Youth Incorporated (FYI) produce a DVD
This group for foster youth is interested in producing a DVD to give to all foster youth entering foster care in Maryland to understand their rights. If you have experience producing DVDs or can donate money to produce this DVD call Shantel Randolph or Rhonda Lipkin at 410-625-9409.
10) Plan a special event for foster youth
If your company, civic group, religious group or community organization would like to plan a summer picnic, holiday party, other special event or have an idea for a project for foster youth contact Duane St. Clair at 410-381-4800 or email at email@example.com.
11) Become a Child Welfare Professional
A career in child welfare can be an exciting and rewarding career choice, and the need for trained professional child welfare workers remains high. These professionals need the skills necessary to assess and intervene with vulnerable families, the ability to relate to people from many different backgrounds, and a willingness to take on challenging work. A social work education offers excellent preparation for the work, and there are several Maryland schools that offer social work degrees at both the bachelor’s and master’s level. These include the University of Maryland at Baltimore, the University of Maryland at Baltimore County, Coppin State University, Morgan State University, Salisbury University, Frostburg State University, Hood College, and McDaniel College. Many departments of social services and private agencies offer internships to young people interested in learning more a social work career.
If you are Social Work student, a Social Worker, or have a degree in the behavioral sciences, please consider working for the Maryland Department of Human Resources. Recruitment is ongoing and special employment incentives are available. Log on to firstname.lastname@example.org or call (410) 767-7414 for more information.
To work for one of the treatment agencies call the Maryland Association of Resources for Families and Youth (MARFY) at 410-974-4901 or go to their website at http://www.marfy.org.
12) Be Part of the Supportive Services NETwork for Vulnerable Youth in Montgomery County
The NET Program is an innovative 4-pronged program in Montgomery County designed to provide adult support and career opportunities to vulnerable young adults willing to work toward a brighter future. The target population is young adults aged 16-25 living in Montgomery County who are aging out of foster care, or who have experienced homelessness or other trauma during adolescence and who are seeking adult connections. Program involvement is entirely voluntary; participants are motivated to make a difference in their life. The four areas for volunteers are:
Be a Coach for Youth: Coach a young person aged 16 to 25 by working 1-on-1 to help them to explore their dreams, develop a life plan, and successfully transition into adulthood. Help a young person "aging out" of foster care and in need of adult support. Coaches will be trained and screened. Program to be administered by the Future Link, Inc. and Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Montgomery County.
Teach Self-Advocacy Skills: Help young people "in the system" develop the negotiating skills necessary to navigate commonplace challenges. This highly acclaimed course uses the Socratic method and a casebook developed by the NYC-based Youth Advocacy Center. Motivated students develop career goals, job readiness skills, resumes, and interviewing skills. The culminating event is an informational interview with a professional in the student's field of interest.
Join the Professional Advisory Council: Agree to talk to a young person about your career. At the end of the Self Advocacy Training Program, students interview a successful adult working in their field of interest. For young adults this can be a powerful and motivating experience.
Hire an Intern or Provide a Scholarship: Studies show that foster children who work during high school are four times more likely to graduate than those who do not. Help us find ways to link motivated, disadvantaged young people to the world of work. Contact Clare Herington, NET Program Director, at 301-461-5197 or email at email@example.com.