National Foster Care Month provides an opportunity raise awareness of the experiences and needs of the more than 400,000 children and youth in the foster care system. Pack A Backpack Drive is The Teen Toolbox’s annual National Foster Care Month event. During the month of May we have collected and distributed new and gently used backpacks (duffel bags, and luggage) and new personal hygiene items to teenage males in group homes, foster homes, and homeless shelters.
Today is the last day to donate: toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash, dental floss, hand sanitizer, deodorant, soap, acne products, lotion, powder, shampoo, conditioner, shaving items, etc. We are also collecting disposable cameras and wallets.
What I Know Now:
December 2012 was a month of pride and enlightenment at The Teen Toolbox. We hosted our 6th Annual PACK A PURSE™ Drive and collected and distributed 705 purses and other bags filled with personal hygiene items to teen girls in foster care in 17 organizations.
We were also greatly inspired by the seven women foster care alumni who shared their personal joys and achievements via The Teen Toolbox blog. I am grateful for their advocacy, leadership, and wisdom.
THANK YOU, ladies, for raising your voices to positively impact the lives of youth in foster care all around the world.
Latrice Ware was born and raised in Ohio. She was in kinship care until age 12 and then went into the foster care system at age 13 after her grandmother had a stroke. Latrice was placed in three foster homes. Latrice questioned how a stranger could love a child that wasn’t theirs. Her foster mother’s response was that she does love her and that she cares for someone else children so those children can do it for someone else. She challenged Latrice to do more and be more. Because of her love and encouragement, Latrice has spent her entire life helping others. Latrice graduated high school and began college at 16. She endured a heart catheterization procedure as a teenager and left school because of her health.
Latrice found a job in corporate America and worked her way up the corporate ladder. The price of success was working 65-70 hours per week leaving little time to spend with her young daughter. She then worked as a consultant for Arlington County.
Helen Hall Ramaglia is an author, Foster/Adoptive Mother, Speaker and Advocate for kids in foster care. She is Founder and Executive Director of Fostering SuperStars, a nonprofit organization designed to enrich the lives of children placed in foster care by serving as a primary connector to organizations, partnerships and providers to meet many of their needs that would normally go unmet. Fostering SuperStars matches each child with a mentor/advocate, enrolls each child in life skills camp, and ensures that each child receives a seasonal wardrobe twice a year. Fostering SuperStars will also connect each child who desires it with an organization that provides horseback riding/therapy.
Helen says that we must fully understand the heart and life of a foster child before we can effectively foster, adopt or work with this vulnerable population of extraordinary children. She shared her story with The Teen Toolbox blog readers to help America walk in the shoes of a child who has experienced physical, mental and emotional abuse, was removed from everything they had known, was provided shelter from the State and strangers, and thrust into adulthood totally unprepared.
A grand total of 705 purses (tote bags, duffle bags, and other gift bags) were collected and distributed to 17 organizations for JaMai and The Teen Toolbox’s 6th Annual Pack A Purse Drive.
The Children’s Home in Catonsville
Anne Arundel County Partnership for Youth and Families
DC Family and Youth Initiative
Howard County Department of Social Services Independent Living Program
Prince George’s County Department of Social Services Independent Living Program
Coalition of Adoption Programs
Hearts & Homes For Youth
Echelon Community Services
A Step Closer Foundation (She Matters)
Ionia Whipper House, Inc.
Sasha Bruce Youthwork, Inc.
Covenant House Washington
Maryland Foster Youth Resource Center
Child and Family Services Administration
We are grateful to all who collaborated, supported, promoted, donated, sorted, packed, and delivered purses.
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.
As we host our 6th Annual PACK A PURSE™ Drive in to collect and distribute purses filled with personal hygiene items to teen girls in foster care this December 2012, we will also use the Teen Toolbox blog as a platform to spread inspiration and hope by highlighting the triumphs of successful women foster care alumni.
Have you read the powerful testimonies of these women?
More blogs about inspirational women are coming your way…
Quotes that Celebrate Womanhood: