IMAGINE LA TO HELP YOUNG PARENTS AT CRITICAL TRANSITION POINT
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved a pilot project that will provide intensive mentorship for 10 to 15 Transition-Age Foster Youth (TAYs) with young children for a period of two years after they exit the foster system.
Repeated studies demonstrate the need for these specialized services. More than a quarter of all girls in foster care at age 17 have given birth at least once, and more than half of the young people leaving the foster system experience homelessness within their first year of emancipation. Forty-four percent of the young children of emancipated TAY return to foster care.
The pilot project, to be operated in partnership with the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), will allow 10 to 15 TAY families leaving Extended Foster Care (EFC) to participate in Imagine LA's innovative two-year Family Mentoring Program. EFC allows TAY to remain under foster care until the age of 21. The goal of this pilot program is to help these young, extremely vulnerable families build relationship skills and connections that empower them to stay together, stay housed, thrive and break their cycle of abuse and neglect.
"Families who work with Imagine LA get matched with a team of volunteer mentors who walk with them as they change their lives," says Jill Bauman, "This mentorship team works with their Imagine LA Family Team Manager to make sure all the resources, skills and habits the family needs stick. They are in it for the long haul. The young people in this program will get help with everything from finding and keeping employment, to learning how to budget, cook, parent, and utilize healthcare, to getting a 'mom' break when they need it most. And the children will have other caring resourceful adults also nurturing their development."
Imagine LA's mentorship program has a strong track record with lasting impact. Since launching its first Family Mentorship Team in 2008, consistently by program graduation:
- 100% of families maintained permanent housing
- 100% of children achieved grade level school proficiency; the majority are excelling
- 100% of high-school aged youth graduated and pursued higher education
- 100% of participants (adults and children) received annual medical and dental exams
- 75% of families increased their household earned income, on average an increase of 67
"I look forward to entering this contract with Imagine LA. I believe their services will greatly help put our young parents and their children on the path to success," says DCFS Director Philip L. Browning.
According to DCFS manager Harvey Kawasaki, "This is truly an innovative program that continues our investment in former foster youth who are now young adults with children of their own. This unique approach provides trained volunteer family mentors, from all walks of life and with special skills and interests, to educate and support our young parents. The program has the potential to be the ultimate community-based safety net for foster youth as they exit foster care as young adults."
Imagine LA's program has been proven successful for families with similar experiences to those the pilot program has been designed for. Sarah, a recent Imagine LA graduate, was kicked out of her home at age 18, became homeless, and had a baby. She says, "My path was not easy, but with my Imagine LA team, I was able to secure a fulltime job, buy my own car and my son is blossoming in day care. I'm still discovering who I am and I'm so thankful that I have mentors who are willing to take this journey of discovery with me." (Sarah is available for comment but prefers to use a pseudonym.)
The action by the Board of Supervisors today includes partial funding for a post-project analysis by a third-party team at the USC School of Social Work, led by Associate Professor and Associate Dean Dorian Traube, Ph.D. That team will conduct interviews with participants and assess enrolled children according to developmental benchmarks.
Commissioner Patricia Curry, of the Los Angeles Commissioner for Children and Families, says, "The Imagine LA pilot program is so exciting because it provides us with the opportunity to build on the incredible success Imagine LA has had helping at-risk families and brings their mentoring and support program to a new population of young adults and their children who are transitioning from foster care. I am hopeful that this public/ private partnership and the efforts of so many other organizations will continue to raise awareness of the needs of this truly vulnerable population. We simply cannot ignore the key findings of the USC-led study and report, California's Most Vulnerable Parents: When Maltreated Children have Children, prepared for and funded by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, that highlighted, among other issues, the multigenerational cycle of abuse and neglect. We must start developing programs that PREVENT these cycles of abuse and neglect. The Los Angeles County Commission for Children and Families is proud to be a part of this public and private partnership and thanks the Board of Supervisors for their support."
"Young people coming out of the foster system need help, and they need hope," said Deanne Tilton, Executive Director of the Interagency Counsel on Child Abuse and Neglect (ICAN). "We believe this pilot program with Imagine LA will give emancipated foster youth and their families the tools to break the cycle of povert, abuse and neglect. We want these young people to start their independent lives secure in the knowledge that someone cares about them and wants them to succeed. We hope that this pilot project will help us provide that for all young families exiting the foster system."
The Pilot's $202,000 funding will come from the ICAN Trust fund, which is dedicated to community-based efforts to end child abuse and neglect. Additional funds have been secured through a consortium led by Southern California Grant Makers.
Wendy Garen, chair of Southern California Grant Makers, says, "Local funders recognize the critical unmet needs of children in the dependency system, and we are very pleased to invest in the evaluation of this important work. We hope that our collective action signals to the entire community the importance of working together to improve outcomes for children."
Imagine LA -- Josh Kamensky
323 205 6634
DCFS -- Neil Zanville or Dominique Robinson
Imagine LA is now building small and mighty volunteer teams (3 people) who will work with these young families on their journeys into adulthood. If you'd like to know how you can be a part of that work, please let us know.