On March 4, 2013, NCJW Palm Beach Section honored Michelle Suskauer at our Women in Power luncheon at Mirasol Country Club, attended by more than 150 women. A fabulous boutique enhanced the afternoon experience.
Michelle was honored for her work in the areas of domestic violence and juvenile justice. Her passion for social justice and her efforts in our community, such as her "Breakfast and Books" mentoring program, in which female attorneys mentor incarcerated young females, expand her reach into areas which have not been previously addressed. Michelle is highly regarded by judges, prosecutors and law enforcement personnel for her compassionate and caring work with those less fortunate.
Secretary of the Florida Department of Children and Families David O. Wilkins met personally with members of the Section Board and leaders and shoppers of the Vita Nova LIFT Project when he was in West Palm Beach late last month. He expressed his appreciation for the outstanding new community service providing household essentials for adolescents aging out of foster care.
The Palm Beach Section of the National Council of Jewish Women received the PARTNERS FOR PROMISE AWARD from the FL Department of Children and Families for its newest community service GIVING A LIFT ON THE ROAD TO INDEPENDENCE to Palm Beach County adolescents aging out of foster care on their 18th birthday.
In-home foster care terminates on an adolescent’s 18th birthday and each one must assume the responsibilities of an adult: apartment rental and furnishing, payment for utilities, transportation, food, money management, etc. Those who stay in school full time get a monthly stipend from the state; some choose not to complete high school or higher education and seek employment; some, regrettably, live “on the streets.”
Vita Nova, Inc is the local agency that has a contract from the FL Department of Children and Families to work with teens from age 16-23, and has transition specialists who work individually with teens from 16 to 18 years old to prepare them for their need to be independent on their 18th birthday. NCJW is working with Vita Nova and their transition specialists to provide a LIFT on their ROAD TO INDEPENDENCE.
Shopping and packing by NCJW volunteers this week yielded for each of 4 foster teens to reach his or her 18th birthday between now and the first of the year a suitcase packed with sheets, towels, blankets, shower curtain and curtain rings, hangers, pot holders and more. Additional storage units and boxes contained a pillow, pots and pans, dishes, glasses, cutlery, knife set, cutting board, kitchen gadgets, cleaning supplies and personal care items.
Judy Traub, VP of Community Service for NCJW, said that “in keeping with NCJW’s mission to improve the quality of life for women, children and families, this project fills a need for some of the most vulnerable young adults in our community. They have been removed from their homes due to abuse, neglect or abandonment by their birth parents, have not been adopted, and have lived a proscribed life as children in the state’s foster care system. NCJW’s project, GIVING A LIFT ON THE ROAD TO INDEPENDENCE is designed to make their transition to independent living a little easier.
Jeff DeMario, CEO of Vita Nova,who attended the launch of the project said “The team from Vita Nova cannot thank you enough for embracing our youth as they leave foster care with the LIFT program. Your members from the Palm Beach Section of the National Council of Jewish Women are miracle workers, and we appreciate this effort to get our young adults started off on the road to independence on the right foot.”
Clay Walker, Community Development Administrator of the FL Department of Children and Families, also attended the launch of the project and “was blown away” by the work and generosity of the members of NCJW. Mr. Walker presented FL DCF’s PARTNERS FOR PROMISE award to NCJW as a thank you for making a difference in our community.
NCJW welcomes support from the community to help us increase the items we can give to these teens to help make their new apartments more comfortable and livable.
Linda Geller-Schwartz at Villaggio
Presenter Dorothy Fadiman
Some of the most fragile youth in our community are those who enter the foster care system because of abuse, neglect or abandonment, and are never adopted. They spend the time from initial court ordered removal from their home to their 18th birthday living in foster home after foster home until, on their 18th birthday, they are removed from their foster home and told they are now on their own - without a car, without a checking account, without a roof over their head.
Vita Nova is the agency in Palm Beach County that has contracted to work with adolescents in foster care from their 16th birthday to their 18th birthday to help them make a plan for their independence after aging out. Vita Nova continues to provide services until the adolescents turn 23 years old. Vita Nova’s Road to Independence staff works one on one to help each adolescent rent an apartment and make plans for future education or employment.
In partnering with Vita Nova, through NCJW's LIFT (Living In Freedom Today) Community Service Project, we are providing basic apartment essentials to every 18 year old aging out of foster care in the county. Working with the Vita Nova Road to Independence staff person, the Palm Beach Section is providing sheets, blankets, pillows, towels, dishes, glassware, pots and pans and more.
Volunteers to date include Phyllis Millman, Linda Kaber, Joan Putterman and Bobbie Singer.
We would welcome additional volunteers who would like to help us promote this project, find sources that would donate the apartment essentials for the project, or work with our current volunteers to assist as needed.