Shalita O’Neale is the Founder and Executive Director of Hope Forward, Inc. (formerly The Maryland Foster Youth Resource Center); a non-profit based in Baltimore City that works with transitioning and former foster youth (ages 17-25) to connect them to housing, education, employment and supportive networks. Hope Forward also works to incorporate youth voice into child welfare system change.
Mrs. O’Neale has over 12 years of experience working and advocating for youth in the foster care system and is also an Alumna of Maryland’s foster care system. She graduated from the University of Maryland at College Park with a BA in criminology and with her Masters of Social Work at the University of Maryland Baltimore, School of Social Work.
Shalita is also the Founder and CEO at Fostering Change Network LLC, a company with a mission of providing professional development and networking opportunities to adults from the foster care system.
In 2011, she was honored as one of The Daily Record’s 20 In Their Twenties and the BFree Daily’s 2nd Annual 10 People to Watch Under 30, the Prince Georges County Social Innovation Fund’s 2015 Forty Under 40, the Baltimore Business Journal’s 2015 Forty Under 40 and featured in the 2013 October issue of Baltimore Magazine’s 40 Under 40. Mrs. O’Neale is also a member of the National Association of Professional Women (NAPW) and serves on the Children’s Justice Act Committee (CJAC) and the Board of the Legal Aid Bureau. Mrs. O’Neale is also a Graduate of the Greater Baltimore Committee’s 2013 Leadership Program.
Shalita has a passion for giving back to the foster youth community and has spoken at numerous seminars, conferences and workshops on the foster care experience and takes every opportunity to stress the importance of community collaborations and partnerships to service the transitioning and former foster youth population. She doesn’t believe in reinventing the wheel, but understands that community organizations and non-profits must learn from and support each other to improve outcomes for youth without families.