On June 14 the Maryland Foster Care Program hosted its first “Launch Party” in order to celebrate the 21st birthday of a young man who is aging out of the system. The party was an inspiration to everyone in attendance and reminded all that were a part of the celebration that through the challenges and successes, we truly do make an impact on the youth in our programs.
Matthew has had the same family consultant, Thomas Smith, since he came to KidsPeace five years ago. One of the many guests at the party was KidsPeace Family Resource Specialist Nadine Anderson, who interviewed Matthew prior to his admission to the program and who shared many kind words about him and well wishes for the future.
In the past year, as Matthew was preparing for independence, he has also worked closely with the Maryland KEYS Coordinator, Jocelyn Kennedy. KEYS stands for KidsPeace Empowering Youth to Succeed and is a unique program focused on group and individual independent living skills preparation and mentoring, as well as job finding and preparation. Matthew was an active participant in KEYS and, as a result of his attendance at bi-monthly KEYS groups, he earned more than $900 in savings that will be applied toward his rent as he prepares to live on his own (in addition to more than $900 that he received as cash in hand for his participation each week). The money that KidsPeace MidAtlantic programs has raised for KEYS will also help the program to rent a truck in order to furnish his apartment and apply toward rent for future months. Additionally, through the generosity of community partners who have donated items to the KEYS program, Matthew was able to pick out several items (such as pillows, baskets filled with household items, a microwave) to help make his new apartment a home as he prepares to live on his own for the very first time.
The party was first of many in the future for those youth who prepare to exit the foster care system at the age of 21 and venture out into the world on their own. The first party was a success from the decorations to the special food that guests prepared for the occasion, to the Metallica poster everyone signed for Matthew to have a daily reminder that we care.
Congratulatory toasts, happy birthday songs, ice cream cake and smiles were all around the room. Matthew even kicked off the toasts (with sparkling cider of course!) by thanking everyone for the help and care he received during his time here, and he gave a special thank you to his foster mother, Nola Davis, who, as Matthew said, hung in there with him during the most difficult time, when he was anxious about preparing for adulthood and needing to leave foster care. Staff members were thrilled to have the opportunity to let Matthew know what potential they see in him and wish him well on his way to adulthood knowing that KidsPeace will always be here for him if he needs a friendly face, kind words or support.
Everyone who attended was touched by the event and the program looks forward to celebrating all youth who turn 21 in order to “launch” them successfully into adulthood.