Shalita O’Neale is a former foster youth from Baltimore, Maryland and Founder & Executive Director of Maryland Foster Youth Resource Center. She entered kinship care at 2 years old and entered foster care officially at the age of 13. After several placements Shalita later ended up in a group home before going away to college. She is a 2004 graduate of the University of Maryland at College Park with a BA in criminology and currently seeking her Master of Social Work at the University of Maryland Baltimore.
Shalita’s experience in foster care mirrored the experiences of many other youth. She feels that in many ways the foster care system is a reflection of where we are as a society. Low self-esteem, disconnection, and negative influences that have become common place in teens today are magnified for youth in foster care. Many teen girls are growing up without a positive female figure to teach them how to love themselves and “be a young lady”. The numbers are higher for girls in foster care who don’t have someone to teach them etiquette or tell them that they are beautiful. They are ending their teen years without structure, guidance, and positive expectations.