After weeks of dropping hints, I announced on New Year’s Day that The Teen Toolbox will work for and with youth in the foster care system. Many people have supported the change but wondered why I decided to focus on teens in foster care and why I am making the decision now. The truth is I have worked with and for youth in foster care for the last twenty years. This has always been my passion. Collecting donations for a residential home for teen mothers in the child welfare system as a high school senior was my entry point to the world of youth in foster care. My curiosity led me to do more research and to pursue social work in college.
I must admit that I have never been a ‘direct’ child welfare worker. In fact, I deliberately avoided those career opportunities. I know my personal and professional limitations and I am very sure that I would have experienced burn out years ago if my job was to investigate allegations of abuse and neglect and physically remove children from unsafe situations on a regular basis. In order to give my best to my clients and to the social work profession, I opted to work in prevention programs that help keep children safe and keep families together and also in positions that provide support and resources to youth and families once there is system involvement. As a human services worker, I was never more than an arm’s length or phone call away from child welfare or child protective services involvement. I have had the pleasure of working in residential, community-based, and school-based programs. My daughter’s annual Pack A Purse Holiday Drive has also kept me involved in the foster care arena for the last five years.
I have taken social work courses, attended trainings and continuing education courses, and continued to do research on the child welfare field on my own. As I researched child welfare laws, organizations, and events, I discovered that there are people that are of the mindset that an individual who has personally experienced life in foster care is the best advocate, trainer, and supporter of youth currently facing life in the system. In many ways I agree. I don’t agree one hundred percent, however. Because I do not agree whole-heartedly, I am working to improve the quality of life for youth involved in the foster care system right now. Walking in my purpose! Won’t you join me?
Nicki Sanders, MSW, Chief Visionary Officer
The Teen Toolbox provides youth portfolio development and civic engagement and academic enrichment opportunities to help teens set goals for life after high school and create a road map to reach those goals through its PACKAGED FOR SUCCESS™ Programs.