July 1, 2014 at 7:25 AM
Patricia Devine-Harms of Montclair and Sara Thom of Maplewood have been working dilligently with their local Junior Leagues volunteering to help teens in foster care. It is through the collaborative efforts of the organizations with volunteers like Devine-Harms and Thom that makes it possible for foster teens to have a more successful transition into adulthood.
On May 20, the Junior League of the Oranges & Short Hills (JLOSH) partnered with the Junior League of Montclair-Newark, Inc. (JLMN) to take part in an Education & Career Fair. The fair supported over 130 youths aged 14-21 as they prepare for their transition from foster care to independence. The fair was a key component of the full day “Embracing Changes” Youth Conference held this year at the Rutgers University School of Law in Newark, NJ.
Foster youth gained access to important resources and opportunities through workshops, college tours, and face-to-face contact with exhibitors representing colleges, social service agencies, healthcare, law guardians, as well as businesses providing jobs and apprenticeships. Experts and former foster youth facilitated “life skills” workshops focused on housing, getting into college and job readiness.
According to the nonprofit Advocates for Children of New Jersey1, there were 1,275 children in out-of-home/foster care placements in Essex County in 2013, accounting for 17% of the 7,330 foster youth in NJ. Every year, over 150 Essex County youth “age out” of the foster care system. If these young adults aren’t aware of available resources, they are at high risk for educational deficits, economic insecurity, homelessness, early child-bearing, and other adverse outcomes. Aging out without comprehensive services negatively impacts communities.
To date, more than 1,000 foster youth from Essex County have attended the Education and Career Fairs. This event marks the seventh year that JLOSH and the sixth that JLMN have partnered together for this Education & Career Fair.
The effective partnership between the Junior League of the Oranges and Short Hills (JLOSH) and the Junior League of Montclair-Newark, Inc. has been recognized among 291 other Junior Leagues in four countries.
As noted by David E. Sims, Essex Area Director of Department of Children & Families Division of Child Protection & Permanency (DCP&P), “On behalf of myself and the entire DCP&P staff, we say thank you for the wonderful collaboration and successful youth conference. We do make a great team.”