The children and families served by the New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services loses a staunch advocate and friend with the retirement of the Division's Director Charles Venti. Venti's ongoing commitment, support, vision and compassion have helped to save countless young vulnerable people whose futures appeared bleak and hopeless.
First Concern is a five-year-old non-profit social services agency that was founded with the encouragement and vision of Charles Venti. We work to help eradicate homeless and poverty for young people (generally 16-18 years old) who are aging out of New Jersey's foster care system. Once children in New Jersey's foster care system turn 18 years of age, they are no longer the responsibility of the state. Most of the children served by First Concern have typically been in an average of 22 foster care placements. These teenagers, many of who sufffer from emotional and developmental disabilities, lack the skills to take care of themselves, earn a liveable wage, or develop positive relationships with others. No other agency in the state has the in-depth curriculum, approach and success that First Concern has. For that, we thank Charlie Venti. Time and again, he has shown his willingness to "go the extra mile" when an at-risk child is in trouble. I have calleld him and received calls from him at all hours of the day or night in order to help one teenager who was alone and in deep despair.
Last month, we honored Charles Venti with our organizations' Pillar of Courage Award. We are truly grateful for his leadership and 27 years at DYSF. Charlie Venti will be sorely missed but his accomplishments will be long remembered and cherished.
Aurelia Frizell, President and Founder
First Concern, Fords, NJ