New Approaches to Systemic Issues in Foster Care

By Kermit Farmer
Feb 14, 2020 • 6 min read

Organizations in LA County, CA are collaborating on a new Foster Care Initiative to connect foster youth with resources and mentors in their community. 

Right now, there are 56,000 kids in foster care in LA County, CA. When children turn 18, they age out of the foster care system and are left to face the world on their own. Organizations like Violence Intervention Program, PS: I Love You, The Academy Project, Stepping Forward LA, Ready to Succeed, Ties 4 Families and many others are working to support foster kids holistically and prepare them for success as they age out of the system. 

Together with Brave Road, they are pioneering a Foster Care Initiative to bring awareness and solutions to the issues of foster care, provide mentors for foster youth in LA County, and provide opportunities for these teens' success. 

Meet James

James is a 16 year old teen in foster care. He is struggling right now in school, and he doesn't know who to turn to for help. It seems like all the adults in his life are always too busy when he needs them. His continual frustration with his homework has caused him to just stop trying. Instead, he plays video games every day after school. He doesn't know what else to do. 

James knows he is going to "age out" of the foster care system in two years. This fact is overwhelming to him, but he doesn't know what to do to prepare himself. College seems out of the question because of his recent failing grades, and he doesn't know what jobs to look for. In general, James is discouraged and lonely, but he doesn't know how to express those feelings to anyone who cares. 

Meet Catherine 

Casual business woman looking happy and smilingCatherine works at the Violence Intervention Program in LA to provide holistic care to children in foster care, especially those who have experienced abuse and neglect. She has a network of organizations with resources to support foster youth, and she is working to connect these with individuals in foster care.

The logistics of her position are daunting for her and other team members - recruiting, training, and retaining mentors. Mentors have needs - just like James. Catherine knows burnout is an issue. Her team is always refining their processes to improve greater care. In this case, relationship building between mentor and mentee is her plight. 

Violence Intervention Program partners with Brave Road, a unique public benefit corporation that specializes in creating collaborations around causes. Brave Road has a joint venture partnership with Village Creed to mobilize support and improve logistics for this foster care initiative in L.A. County. 

Village Creed is an online platform that connects resources within local communities. TVC offers a central place for local organizations to post their events, resources, and needs, making it easy for individuals to find opportunities for development and service. They also provide GIS mapping of local resources, so communities can better understand their capacities.

Meet Paul

Headshot portrait of young man smiling isolated on outside outdoors background.Paul wants to be a foster care mentor but has doubts. He doesn't know if he's the right fit. He's afraid of what the commitment level might be. His heart is torn when he sees poverty on the streets. He knows the solution is intertwined in relationships. He has social capital and advice to share.

Paul had adversity growing up. He had a friend 12 years older to lean on in tough times. He wants to "be there" for a young person like his mentor was there for him growing up. Paul knows the world would be a better place if everyone played a small role in making it better. 

Today 

Through the Foster Care Initiative, James is paired with a qualified mentor - Paul. He and Paul spend time working on homework and participating in community programs and events. James' mentor and case worker work with him to recommend unique Paths for him on Village Creed's platform. These Paths help James achieve goals and develop his skills and discover new passions.  

Screen Shot 2020-02-17 at 12.28.09 PMClick to enlarge image

All of the hours James spends with his mentor and engaged in the community are recorded on Village Creed's platform. They are then compiled on an electronic Community Engagement Transcript.

Screen Shot 2020-02-14 at 11.04.13 AMJames can use this transcript to showcase his efforts on developing himself and his skills. He can now confidently apply for higher education or employment opportunities with a clear way to communicate his worth. 

James isn't as lonely anymore with his mentor relationship. He has also realized the amount of resources at his disposal in the community. Someone just needed to make that connection for him.

He has started creating a network of his own through his engagement in the community. 

Paul is glad he took the leap to become a mentor. He understood Catherine's vision. Through the community engagement opportunities and Paths on Village Creed's platform, he can tangibly see the difference he is making in James' life.  '