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Former Foster Children Give Back in a Big Way(2)

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Thousands of children age out of the foster care system every year, and the statistics related to where many of them wind up are appalling. Many become homeless, are unable to find employment, do not finish school, become incarcerated or turn to alcohol and drugs. Diane Sancilio, Regional Director of Foster Care and Community Programs for Maryland, Virginia, DC and New Jersey, is very concerned about these statistics, and she organizes training for foster teens who are served by the KidsPeace offices in DC and MD. KidsPeace has offered the Money Club to teen foster kids in the area for three years, teaching them about saving and investing and helping others and managing their income. This year, however, the program will be expanded to contain many more hands-on activities and life skills training. This expansion is thanks to two amazing young women.

As a member of the Maryland Association of Resources for Family and Youth (MARFY), Diane met Shalita O’Neale and Shantel Randolph, two former foster children who are on a mission to help foster children learn the skills they need too live independently. Shalita is the founder of Maryland Foster Youth Resource Center (MFYRC), a nonprofit that was funded by a grant from MARFY, Casey and DHR to provide training and resources for older foster kids. She has a MSW that she wants to use to help kids in the system today and in the future. “There are so many scholarships and grants and opportunities for foster kids, but most are not known. I want to get the word out to as many foster kids as possible and give them the tools to continue their educations or find good jobs after leaving the system,” Shalita says. 

Shantel established a youth advocacy group (FYI) with a community fellowship, working with Baltimore kids in the foster care system. She does public speaking and testifies about foster care issues and performs outreach to the community. When she met Shalita, she realized that her activities were a perfect fit with MFYRC and joined the organization to continue her advocacy efforts.

When Diane learned that MFYRC needed office space, she offered them an office in the KidsPeace Baltimore suite in exchange for their running an independent living skills training program to KidsPeace foster teens. The result is an exciting program that will prepare these foster teens for life on their own.

Independent Living/Prep for Success

Shalita and Shantel have ambitious plans for the class that will begin in September. There will be an evening class twice a month followed by a Saturday field trip to practice what has been learned. Guest speakers will present to the class on such topics as banking, buying or renting living space, applying and interviewing for a job or college, Investment, purchasing and insuring a vehicle, budgeting and social skills that are necessary for adult life.

Shalita explains that life in foster care often does not prepare youth for these kinds of activities. “If a youth has had many foster placements or lives in a youth house, there is no opportunity to learn how to do these things.” One Saturday, program participants will visit banks to open accounts, learn how to write checks and practice filling out applications for loans. The following week may find them looking at vacant apartments and filling out applications and providing references to lease living space. They will apply for jobs and go through interviews another Saturday, and see what is involved in purchasing a car and insurance another.

According to Shantel, “We will also cover health issues and mental wellness, as well as social skills that they may not have learned while in the system.” They will also visit vital statistics offices to learn how to obtain important documents and meet with college admissions counselors to learn about higher education options. The original Money Club curriculum will also be included, utilizing the Merrill Lynch curriculum which teaches the kids about investing, budgeting, saving money and other important information about finance.  As has been done in the past, through the fundraising efforts with Corridor Fine Wine, each youth receives $25.00 after completing a section of the curriculum and $25 is placed in a savings account that we be given to each youth as they age out of the system. The teens will also learn about their legal rights, transportation and even shopping for groceries or furnishings for their apartments.


Diane is hoping for a big turnout of foster teens for the program that will meet every two weeks through May. KidsPeace interns from the University of Maryland and Howard University will assist Shalita and Shantel with the program. Diane is very excited about the program and asks, “Who can better help kids than those who have been in their shoes? These wonderful young women will pass along their experiences and what they have learned to try to make the transition to adulthood easier for this next generation foster kids about to become independent.”

KidsPeace FCCP will be holding a wine tasting fundraiser for the Prep for Success program on September 16, from 6:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m. at Corridor Fine Wine, 3321 Marketplace, Laurel, MD 20724.

For more information on KidsPeace Foster Care and Community Programs, visit To learn more about Shalita’s and Shantel’s efforts on behalf of foster teens, visit



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