Fostered youth in marginalized communities are always in need of support and attention, but this year has increased the need to draw attention to the millions of young people without stability and structure in their lives. First Place for Youth, a SoCal organization dedicated to help foster youth build the skills they need to make a successful transition to self-sufficiency and responsible adulthood, is putting their best food forward for young adults in foster care.
According to First Place for Youth, “each year, more than 25,000 young people “age out” of foster care system and face the prospect of independent living. For many of them, a lifetime of instability and a lack of strong family and community connections will leave them struggling to find their footing as adults.” Through safe housing initiatives, education and employment specialization programs, and mentorship opportunities, FPFY is providing the necessary measures for fostered youth ages 18-24 to succeed. With a track record of over 1,700 youth served in 2019, more than 90% of their programmees successfully obtained stable housing and are employed in the work force.
Suzanne Brown, Executive Director, spoke to the importance of building skills and having the necessary resources to build a foundation as a fostered youth:
“No one at 18 years old, is ready to be on their own. After having enough foster care and bouncing from house to house during their time, also not having adequate skill set,” she says. “Sometimes there’s some educational achievement get many times their employee navigator. And so because of that, it’s hard for me to go after your time in foster care and whether it’s voluntary or involuntary. So that’s the first place provides a transition called additional coaching or life skills support to support the transition of these adults.”
Fostered youth is a demographic among those with the greatest needs; more than 40% of young adults in the system will transition out to not have a stable home, 20% of them will not hold a diploma, and 23% will be young adult parents. COVID-19 has made it especially easy, with the closings of schools and unemployment rate rising to 4.7% in April 2020, for vulnerable fostered youth to fall in the cracks of society without the proper support. First Place for Youth made it their mission to provide emergency funding for young people who were feeling the effects of unemployment from Coronavirus.
As May was Foster Care Awareness Month, it came as an opportune time to partner with Los Angeles-based organization Art + Practice to help foster youth who are aging out of the system transition into adulthood with the proper tools and resources to set them ahead of the curve. Nereya Otieno, Communications Coordinator and Programs Assistant at Art + Practice, spoke to the organization’s partnership with First Place for Youth:
“We collaborate closely with First Place for Youth to assist and support young people in LA county’s most populated foster care area with education, employment, housing, and life skills. We combine the arts and social service via internships, scholarships, mentoring, and most recently a grocery and essential goods gift card distribution program, totaling $32,000.”
Since March 13, First Place for Youth has been able to place multiple youth into safe housing, deliver grocery stipends, provide educational resources such as laptops and cell phones, and deliver necessary items to parenting youth such as diapers and baby formula. The organization dedicated to the betterment and progression of fostered youth is still currently taking donations to offset the costs faced by those in the system. Community efforts, and an increase in awareness of the foster care system, can only help to aid foster youth in stepping into self-sufficiency and responsible adulthood.