Career Fair for Teens in Foster Care

Stay positive:  The three great essentials to achieving anything worthwhile are; first, hard work, second, stick-to-it-iveness, and third, common sense. -- Thomas A. Edison (1847-1931) American Inventor

Career Fair for Teens in Foster Care

Essex County CASA Executive Director Karen Burns, Division of Youth and Family Services Essex County Area Director David Sims, Rutgers Child Advocacy Clinic Director Randi Mandelbaum, Rutgers Child Advocacy Center Attorney Nana Wilson, JLMN member Patricia Devine Harms, Superior Court Assistant Family Division Manager Karen Smith, the Honorable Sallyanne Floria, JLOSH member Sara Agress, and the Honorable David B. Katz. [From left to right]

The Junior League of the Oranges and Short Hills Inc., JLOSH, along with other local organizations, hosted an education and career fair for teens in foster care, who are about to come out of the child welfare system.

The event took place at Rutgers University Law School in Newark where 145 students and 100 caseworkers, foster parents and Essex County Court Appointed Special Advocates, CASA, attended on May 17 .

Forty-two exhibitors were involved, including representatives from area colleges and universities, as well as health and social service agencies, to provide practical information related to education, career planning, health topics and self-advocacy.

JLOSH hosted the event with CASA, the Junior League of Montclair-Newark Inc. , JLMN, in partnership with the Child Advocacy Clinic at the Rutgers School of Law and the Essex County Family Court

The Education & Career Fair was part of a full-day conference for foster youth ages 14-21 entitled “Step Up to Grow Up.” The conference featured an “edutainment” session hosted by Curtis Sherrod from the Hip Hop Culture Center of Harlem, which incorporated hip hop music into a conversation about youths’ rights and options, and how to begin to plan for the future.

During the day, youth also attended several breakout sessions of their choice, which covered topics such as safe dating, making a living, finding housing, and the basics of banking and budgeting. The conference also featured special sessions for Division of Youth and Family Services case managers.

Essex County has an alarming number of children in out-of-home/foster care placement – over 1,200, amounting to 16% of all foster children in New Jersey, according to statistics provided by Advocates for Children in New Jersey. Many of these children are unaware of the various resources available to them as they get closer to “aging out” of the foster care system. The purpose of the Education & Career Fair, and of the conference more broadly, was to put these teens into contact with a variety of materials and people who can help them.