Then and now
Shantel Randolph established the Facing Our Future program to provide public education and advocacy efforts to enhance the lives and outcomes of Baltimore City’s foster youth. By the time she became an alumni fellow in 2010, Randolph decided to combine her efforts with those of the Maryland Foster Youth Resource Center.
Randolph’s work exposed a troubling statistic: 90 percent of her clients, youth who had aged out of the foster care system, were homeless or in some sort of unstable housing within six months.
“They have needs like education and employment,” Randolph says. “But we can’t address these needs until they have homes.”
She is currently working to partner with landlords who are willing to subsidize the cost of rent for these young people in need of transitional housing.
Challenge of sustainability
Attaining funding has been a challenge for the center because outsiders do not necessarily see young people aging out of the foster care system as being as vulnerable as they truly are, she says. Her clients are adults in the legal sense, but they still need the help and support that the center provides.
OSI Baltimore has helped
“One of the great things OSI does is to follow us,” Randolph says. “We are able to showcase our work, and people have been able to reach out to me. I am able to see who is taking a lead in their work and seeing how they could help my clientele.”
Randolph works closely with other fellows, including 2010 fellow Jessica Turral, whose program, Hand in Hand Baltimore, mentors boys awaiting trial as adults at the Baltimore City Detention Center. They try to support one another’s projects in an effort to more effectively help that severely underserved population.
With this grant, Randolph hopes to expand and solidify housing and employment services for her clients. “We want to build partnerships and relationships with landlords and other agencies, develop a curriculum, and hire more staff,” Randolph says. “This money will help us dedicate more time to developing programs that can help.”
Once the young people have adequate housing, they can then focus on becoming gainfully employed and establish a life for themselves as adults.
Randolph wants to develop a curriculum for a life-skills course that her clients can take in their group homes and foster homes to prepare them for life after aging out of the system. In addition, the course would help them identify their interests and future career paths. Randolph hopes to establish partnerships with other organizations to give these young people opportunities to build their resumes and gain exposure to different fields.
“These young people have unorthodox lives,” Randolph says. “We need to find a different way to serve them.”