Ava Walker (Courtesy photo)

In the city of Los Angeles, there are more than 35,000 children in foster homes. Only three percent of foster youth will obtain a college degree in their lifetime.

Seven out of 10 girls who age out of the foster care system will become pregnant before the age of 21. More than 25 percent will suffer from the direct effects of post-traumatic stress disorder after aging out of the foster care system.

Ava Walker is the founder of “Arts, Film, and Goods’ pantry,” a non-profit organization that serves foster youth throughout the Southland, and a former foster youth herself. She sat down with L.A. Sentinel to opine about her journey from foster child to CEO.

Los Angeles Sentinel: What is foster care and what makes it a system?

Ava Walker: When a child is abandoned by his parents, the (Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services) assumes custody and finds him a home. The foster parents then have the option of keeping the child or letting him go. He gets bounced around from home to home until accepted by someone who treats him like their own.

LAS: Your mission is “to provide foster youth with critical everyday needs.” What are those needs?

AW: Foster youth need love and support; and someone to remind them it’s not their fault they’re in foster care, and that they shouldn’t carry the baggage of their parents’ decisions.

LAS:  Tell me about providing foster youth with creative outlets.

AW: I want to provide foster youth with writing, music and painting to begin learning to express themselves; to tell their own stories rather than people telling the story for us.

LAS:  Speak on the contributions from Black women and the community support you’ve received.

AW: So many women have helped me along the way. (Author) Leah Pump, (The Shade Room founder) Angelica Nwandu, and others. I would not be who I am without them. When I started this non-profit, I was scared because I wasn’t educated, I didn’t know anything about business, and these women became my village. They believed in me and my purpose. You cannot do this alone. It takes a village to get it done.

LAS:  You’re the author of “I’m More than a Foster Child” available on Amazon. Tell me how being a former foster youth helps your daily process.

AW: I still deal with issues, but I’ve chosen to become a victor over what I went through. The nurturing that I needed from a parent now exists in me. I’m grateful that through those experiences I can reach back and help other foster youth.

LAS: You’re also an aspiring screenwriter. Do you have anything ‘in the can?’

AW: Yes, I have a few scripts to pitch to (filmmaker) Ava Duvernay, (film writer) Kenya

Barris, and (TV writer) Courtney Kemp Agboh.


LAS:  How can the South Los Angeles community help support your cause?

AW: Get involved! Donate and volunteer. And I’d love to collaborate with anyone who can help highlight foster care awareness.