learn / 2014

Helping LA’s most vulnerable youth succeed

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Maker Challenge by Children's Action Network

FosterMore will recruit volunteers, mentors and foster parents to improve the outcomes for foster youth in Los Angeles


Please describe yourself.

Collaboration (partners are signed up and ready to hit the ground running!)

In one sentence, please describe your idea or project.

FosterMore will recruit volunteers, mentors and foster parents to improve the outcomes for foster youth in Los Angeles

Does your project impact Los Angeles County?

Yes (benefits a population of LA County)

Which area(s) of LA does your project benefit?

  • Central LA
  • East LA
  • South LA
  • San Gabriel Valley
  • San Fernando Valley
  • South Bay
  • Westside

What is your idea/project in more detail?

Research shows many Angelenos hold negative opinions about foster youth. Foster youth are seen as “broken” kids. This stigma has had a real impact on recruitment efforts. Last year, LA County’s foster parent shortage was at a “crisis” level.

FosterMore, a national coalition that promotes opportunities for foster youth, will execute a first of its kind, multimedia effort to de-stigmatize foster youth, recruit potential activists and foster parents and help expand the reach of two successful programs. With this grant, LA can address the pressing need for foster parents and improve outcomes for youth in care.

FosterMore’s campaign will reintroduce foster youth to Angelenos and create a pilot to be scaled across the country.

What will you do to implement this idea/project?

When budgets are cut, those without a voice in government are the hardest hit. Foster youth are the most vulnerable Angelenos because the foster care system is overburdened. The hard working, well-intentioned folks working on their behalf have neither the time nor the means to develop, produce and execute a nuanced strategy to recruit their ideal candidates for foster parents and mentors. More than 150,000 child abuse investigations were launched in the county last year alone. Working with limited resources, we want and need the county’s social workers focused on one thing: the safety of all our kids.

FosterMore has done significant research and partnered with Hollywood storytellers to craft video and online messages to change the perception of foster youth and spark a desire to help these youth in need. The LA2050 grant will provide the necessary resources to launch a full-scale marketing and recruitment campaign.

The campaign will combine well-researched and tested messages with the latest online marketing tools and tactics to generate leads, which will be followed up on by a local foster parent recruitment agency that has demonstrated a 500% increase in converting leads to foster parents over the past two years and the most high-impact program working with foster youth in schools to graduate high school.

How will your idea/project help make LA the best place to LEARN today? In 2050?

Only 5 percent of foster youth are proficient in math and only 20 percent in English. Housing the largest population of foster youth in the state and second largest in the nation, we must do something now!

By recruiting dedicated and caring individuals to foster parent and mentor youth in care, we hope to improve outcomes. It’s a fact that four out of five foster youth have had to repeat a grade by the third grade. Children in foster care are at high risk for maltreatment and stress that cause developmental delays and set them behind as early as kindergarten. They are less likely to be enrolled in preschool and foster youth are twice as likely as the general population to leave high school without a diploma. Many foster youth experience more than five school changes.

The challenges these youth face from an educational and social emotional development standpoint are unimaginable to most. However, the well-researched and evidence-based models designed by the FosterMore coalition partners prove that with the right foster parents and mentors, these youth can succeed and thrive.

We anticipate that by reintroducing foster youth to Los Angeles residents in 2014, we can shift public opinion and support for these youth. As Los Angeles produces more and more foster youth success stories, we will continue to experience increased levels of support for foster youth, thereby increasing the number of foster parents and mentors as well as public support for the agencies tasked with their well being. This project is the first and most critical step in taking the foster parent shortage from crisis to surplus.

Whom will your project benefit?

Last August The Los Angeles Times reported the county’s shortage of foster care beds had reached “a crisis point.” At that time “officials acknowledged they don’t have enough personnel to promptly feed children or change diapers.”

The largest immediate beneficiaries of this project will be the 28,000 kids in Los Angeles County’s foster care system. In addition, roughly 2,500 youth in the county “age-out” meaning they reach the age at which they can no longer remain a ward of the state in foster care, without having received permanent placement. This population of foster youth fares the worst, with more than half living in poverty, a quarter incarcerated the lowest high school and college graduation rates of all youth.

The FosterMore coalition’s project to recruit mentors and foster parents will have the secondary impact of generating more interest in adoption, and moving more and more kids into permanent homes.

The community as a whole will benefit because on average, for every young person who ages out of foster care, taxpayers and communities pay $300,000 in social costs like public assistance, incarceration, and lost wages to a community over that person’s lifetime. With more than 200,000 youth aging out in the past decade, you can conservatively estimate this problem incurs almost $8 billion in social costs to the United States every year.

Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.

FosterMore will serve as the lead for the project. FosterMore is a coalition of nonprofit organizations and foundations united to increase opportunities for youth in foster care. Lead funding and strategic partners include, Casey Family Programs, The Entertainment Industry Foundation, Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, Anthony & Jeanne Pritzker Family Foundation, Stuart Foundation and Youth Villages. The effort is directed by co-founders, Jennifer Perry, Executive Director of the Children’s Action Network and David Ambroz, Director, Corporate Citizenship and Social Responsibility, Disney-ABC Television Group. Managing the effort is Mark Daley, of Propper Daley, A Social Impact Agency.

Raise a Child, a leader in foster and adoptive parent recruitment will work with potential recruits to see them through the long and often frustrating process of certification to placement. United Friends of the Children will collaborate by providing volunteer opportunities for individuals wishing to volunteer their time and talents to advance a foster child through education.

How will your project impact the LA2050 “Learn” metrics?

  • District-wide graduation rates
  • HS student proficiency in English & Language Arts and Math
  • Student education pipeline (an integrated network of pre-schools, K-12 institutions, and higher education systems that prepares students for seamless transitions between high school, higher education institutions, and the workforce) (Dream Metric)

Please elaborate on how your project will impact the above metrics.

Foster youth, living at the mercy of an overburdened system, have been robbed of their promise in Los Angeles County. From lower preschool enrollment to lower high school graduation rates, you would be hard-pressed to find a group of kids more challenged in our schools. It is our intent that two successful programs will benefit from FosterMore’s efforts to increase awareness of foster youth and provide opportunities to get involved with them.

The College Readiness Program at United Friends of the Children (UFC) is a tried and proven model that delivers outcomes where others have failed. Our campaign aims to drive additional resources to this successful effort. The referral of potential foster parents to Raise A Child will ensure additional foster families to address the profound need in Los Angeles.

Please explain how you will evaluate your project.

The project will evaluate its impact utilizing several criteria including but not limited to, leads generated through online click-throughs, leads that are generated with through phone calls and in-person meetings and those who successfully navigate the process to become certified foster parents. In addition, we will look at the number of children placed in homes of those recruited by the effort.

The grant will also afford us the ability to test multiple advertisements for effectiveness at generating support and/or click-throughs. Effective media will be made available to other regions of the country who are experiencing similar challenges with foster care recruitment. Our goal is to develop compelling content that transcends geography and enables communities across the nation to more efficiently increase the number and caliber of foster parent recruits.

What two lessons have informed your solution or project?

Our research has informed us that the greatest challenge facing foster parent recruitment are the negative stigmas associated with youth in care. A common misperception held by individuals is that the youth in care are “damaged” or “broken.” In order to convince our neighbors to open their homes and their hearts to a child in need, we must first change the way they view foster youth. Continuing with the positive messaging of FosterMore, our content will showcase the potential of foster youth and former foster youth and present opportunities to help change the life of kid experience tough times.

Further, our research indicates that the process of deciding to become a foster parent can take up to two years. We will strive to shorten this period through a series of well-crafted messages targeting those with the potential to have the most impact on the lives of foster youth.

Explain how implementing your project within the next twelve months is an achievable goal.

FosterMore has currently developed storyboards and several concepts for videos and content creation. By the end of August 2014, we will have tested each concept in focus groups and scored likely messages for impact. Our plan is to develop the video and online content by September for an October launch.

The campaign will be executed by the partnership of Children’s Action Network, a Los Angeles-based (national leader) in raising awareness about and finding homes for children in foster care, and Propper Daley, Hollywood’s first Social Impact Agency, which has orchestrated the acclaimed Got Your 6 and Uprising of Love campaigns, and top Hollywood producers, specializing in content aimed at our target audience.

Please list at least two major barriers/challenges you anticipate. What is your strategy for ensuring a successful implementation?

The reason people hold such negative views of foster youth is because they only hear about the negative stories. Many children who have been in foster care are now thriving, successful adults. Doctors, lawyers, social workers, and teachers have spent time in state care. Reintroducing Angelenos to their neighbors who spent time in foster care is the first step toward eliminating the stigmas associated with foster care. This challenge will be met through intensive focus groups and a battery of online testing of advertisements and messages. The FosterMore coalition will use much of the grant to purchase online ads to drive the campaign in a series of waves.

Because our research tells us that it takes on average two years to decide to become a foster parent, we will introduce messaging that seeks to advance the decision-making process. Our ads will reach the same audience and use technologies that enable us to reach those who view our ads with our second and third wave of messaging. Each new wave will be tested and designed to reintroduce foster youth and encourage individuals to consider foster parenting and mentoring opportunities. Similarly, our site will be customized and user-friendly, to inform without overwhelming visitors.

What resources does your project need?

  • Money (financial capital)
  • Volunteers/staff (human capital)
  • Publicity/awareness (social capital)
  • Community outreach