TOWSON, Md. — On Monday, February 10, 2014, Maryland Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) Association will host a panel discussion on the unique challenges faced by Maryland’s foster youth and the best ways to serve these vulnerable members of society at the Towson Public Library, located at 320 York Road in Towson from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. The event is free open to the public.
The panelists include: Molly McGrath-Tierney, director of the Baltimore City Department of Social Services; Catherine Trotter, founder of House of New Beginnings; Emily Schappi, 2013 Open Society Institute Community Fellow with the Maryland Foster Youth Resource Center; Bethany Lee, Associate Director of Research at the University of Maryland School of Social Work; and Melissa Rock, Child Welfare Director at Advocates for Children and Youth.
According to data from the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS), more than half of Maryland children in the foster care system were over the age of 14 in 2012 and one quarter (27 percent) were older than 17. These numbers indicate a growing population of youth who remain in foster care until they age out of the system when their eligibility for state services expires at age 21. Child welfare advocates and service providers worry that this trend will worsen the already tough situation faced by Maryland’s foster youth, who exit the system without the support of a family.
“Foster youth are at a greatly increased risk for homelessness, unemployment, unplanned pregnancy, domestic violence and substance abuse,” says Ed Kilcullen, state director of Maryland CASA Association. “A significant part of the problem is that these older kids generally do not have dependable relationships with responsible, reliable adults.”
Maryland CASA is a non-profit organization with fifteen local programs statewide that train volunteers to advocate for abused and neglected children in court. The organization is increasing its focus on the growing number of older foster youth by recruiting more volunteers to work specifically with this population and offering additional trainings to enhance the skills of volunteers to address the challenges facing these youths. Maryland CASA hopes that this event will increase public awareness of the issues facing Maryland’s foster youth, encourage citizens to become advocates and promote collaboration among the child welfare community so that all foster youth in Maryland have the support they need to make a successful transition to adulthood.
The event is free and open to the public, but pre-registration is required.
To register or for more information, visit http://marylandcasa.org/regional-trainings/ or call 410-828-6761.