Meet the team with over 50 years combined experience in non-profit and child welfare program development.
Fostering Change Network’s expertise in child welfare begins with Founder and CEO Shalita O’Neale, a highly trusted and nationally recognized professional both inside and outside of both social work and foster care circles. In addition to her own experience in the foster care system, Shalita possesses over 13 years’ experience working and advocating for youth and alumni of the foster care system.
Shalita is originally from Baltimore, Maryland where she entered kinship care after the death of her mother at age 2, then bounced back and forth between family members before officially entering Maryland’s foster care system at the age of 13.
Shalita founded Fostering Change Network, LLC (FCN) in 2012 as a way to use her 13 years’ experience in child welfare training, program development and advocacy to connect young professionals with foster care histories, like herself, through local and national professional networking events such as the Alumni Powerhouse Networking Conferences (APNC) that have taken place in Maryland, California and New York City since 2015.
In 2016, Shalita’s desire to empower adults from foster care to secure resources to allow them to contribute to the economic development of their communities led her to found the Fostering Change Network Foundation- a non-profit organization that will provide fellowships and micro-grants to alumni of the foster care system interested in starting their own businesses, non-profits and other professional endeavors.
Shalita’s most recent honors include: ♣ 2011—one of The Daily Record’s ”20 In Their Twenties” ♣ 2011—BFree Daily’s “2nd Annual 10 People to Watch Under 30“ ♣ 2013—one of Baltimore Magazine’s “40 Under 40” ♣ 2015—one of Prince George’s County Social Innovation Funds' “Forty under 40” ♣ 2015—one of Baltimore Business Journal's “40 Under 40” ♣ 2017—named “Maryland Mom of the Year” by the American Mothers’ Organization (founded by Former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, and that originally established Mother’s Day as a national holiday)
Through all of her personal and professional endeavors, it is Shalita’s ultimate goal to dispel the stigma of foster care by highlighting the contributions of alumni of the foster care and providing them with the resources, tools and peer network that will allow them to excel. Shalita has spoken nationally and internationally at numerous seminars, conferences and workshops on the foster care experience, and she takes every opportunity to emphasize the importance of community collaborations and partnerships to assure the successful transitioning and former foster youth population. Shalita does not believe in reinventing the wheel. Instead, she understands that community organizations and non-profits must learn from and support each other to improve outcomes for youth without families.
Shalita holds a Bachelor of Arts in Criminology from the University of Maryland at College Park and a Masters of Social Work from the University of Maryland Baltimore. She serves on the Children’s Justice Act Committee (CJAC), she is a member of the Board of Directors for the Legal Aid Bureau of Maryland and a proud graduate of the Greater Baltimore Committee’s 2013 Leadership Program.
Susan Emfinger is a senior fundraising professional with more than 15 years of nonprofit and volunteer management, alumni relations, communications, major gift, annual, corporate and planned giving fundraising experience at both the national and the international levels. She is also an alumna of the foster care system.
Susan joined Fostering Change Network in order to help bring much-needed resources, both human and financial, to creating business and community leadership opportunities for foster youth and for foster youth alumni. As Susan puts it, "In the US as well as other countries, foster youth who have thrived despite so many challenges clearly possess strengths, talents and leadership skills that should be acknowledged and developed, not only for the benefit of foster youth, but for society as a whole." Susan earned a BA in French from Michigan State University, and a master's degree in International Affairs from Columbia University.
April is an alumnus of the Illinois child welfare system. Now a college graduate April works to help youth in care and in her community solve problems, advocate for themselves, and improve their lives. Among the many issues related to foster youth, sibling rights are a cause April promotes most passionately. In August 2002, she sponsored a Sibling Symposium to draw attention to the importance of maintaining sibling connections and gather feedback for a Sibling Bill of Rights. She is a National Consultant on Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice, where she works on developing agency reform, strategic planning, youth programs, youth councils, conferences, grants, board development and trainings for agencies across the United States and Puerto Rico.
Mrs. Curtis is one of the founding and current board member of Foster Care Alumni of America National Board and IL Chapter. She is currently a Senior Fellow for CWLA after serving 12 years on the Board of Directors. She is currently on the Quality Improvement Center for Adoption/Guardianship Support and Preservation (QIC-AG) National Advisory Board. April is on the Board of Directors for two Chicago Humboldt Park Community Organizations, she is on the board for Both Sides of the Park and the Vice President and Coach for the Roberto Clemente Humboldt Park Little League Baseball.
Jamole Callahan is a national and international trainer, program manager, motivational speaker and curriculum developer. His areas of expertise include: ensuring permanency for older youth, successfully structuring independent living programs, leadership development and youth development.
Jamole spent six years in foster care, where he experienced multiple moves before he emancipated at age 18. Today, Jamole has a vision for empowering foster parents, caseworkers, and foster care youth and alumni to succeed. Jamole works regularly with legislators in Ohio and Washington D.C. to help shape policy to better serve alumni and youth who are currently in care. Successful legislative initiatives include: mandating normalcy for foster youth at both the state and federal levels, extending foster care to age 21 in Ohio, and the U.S. Fostering Stable Housing Opportunities Act. He has been recognized for his work by the Ohio and New Jersey Legislatures.
What cannot be adequately communicated via the printed page is Jamole’s amazing “energy”, his uncanny ability to be perceived as “cool” in any situation and the almost mysterious way in which he can find common ground with anyone he meets (and we mean anyone), successfully working from that point to create opportunities for all parties concerned.
Jamole Callahan holds BA in Music Education from Central State University. He is also a Board Member of UMCH Family Services, a comprehensive children’s mental health and child welfare agency that helps families stay together, reunify or become new forever families. Greatest of all his accomplishments: Jamole is a proud father of four children and a devoted husband to Nealita Callahan, his wife of 12 years.
Sarah is a seasoned youth advocate with progressive experience in non-profit leadership. After spending 17 years in the child welfare system before ultimately emancipating, Sarah earned a Bachelor of Arts in Social Work from San Diego State University and a Master of Arts in Public Policy and Administration from Northwestern University.
Currently, Sarah is the founder and CEO of Phenomenal Families where she works to provide children and youth in foster care and juvenile probation with access to education and resources that promote healthy relationships, sexual development, and positive parenting. Sarah has co-chaired the County of San Diego’s Children’s System of Care Council and is a current member of the Juvenile Justice Commission.
Additionally, she is actively involved in state-level initiatives, including the Katie A. settlement, Continuum of Care Reform, and Psychotropic Quality Improvement Project. Her educational and professional achievements paired with nearly two decades of experience within the foster care system grant her a unique perspective shared by few in her field.