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When Ariel Brown needs help navigating college financing, or any kind of life questions a young adult starting out in life might have, she often turns to her Department of Children and Families (DCF) support system. Last month, Ariel was among more than 100 teen-agers who attended DCF’s 15th annual youth summit in Westborough which brings together young people from across the Commonwealth who receive DCF services for networking and workshops.

“You’re basically getting tips on life,” Brown, 21, told a MetroWest Daily News reporter who covered the 2016 youth summit on July 21. “You come here and gain that knowledge. It shows youths you can be successful. You have to take advantage of these events.”

No question Ariel does. A former foster child now receiving volunteer services from DCF, she’s worked her way from high school to North Shore Community College to Salem State University where she majors in business and psychology. For the summer, she has an office job and an internship with the Massachusetts Network of Foster Care Alumni.

Every summer, the Department invites youths age 16-22 for a day of socializing and workshops with topics including insurance, college loans, meditation and exercise.

“Many of our young adults live in communities or attend schools where they don’t often come across other kids in their situation,” said Kathy Lopes, DCF assistant commissioner for foster care, adoption, and adolescent services. “The Youth Summit is an opportunity for them to meet each other and, through the workshops, share and learn from each other’s journeys to adulthood.”

Young adults who are in DCF custody when they turn 18 can choose to sign a Voluntary Placement Agreement to receive the Department’s help with the transition to adulthood until age 22.  During that time, they work jointly with social workers to achieve their goals while they are enrolled in school or have a job. Many choose to live on their own, in apartments or in college dorms, and DCF staff assist by teaching life skills, budgeting, and informed decision-making –all with the goal of helping young adults develop the necessary skills to achieve their potential.

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