connect Finalist / 2018
Youth to Youth: Helping Young Adults Exit Foster Care
Please describe the activation your organization seeks to launch.
Through the LA2050 challenge, CASA/LA is looking to activate college students to work as court-appointed volunteers helping older youth in foster care, aged 18-21, exit out of the system. The Youth to Youth volunteers will help these young adults secure safe and permanent housing, and connect them with educational and training opportunities. But most importantly, they will make sure the young adults in extended foster care have all the tools in place to live independent and successful lives.
Which of the connect metrics will your activation impact?
- Rates of volunteerism
Will your proposal impact any other LA2050 goal categories?
- LA is the best place to LEARN
In what areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?
- County of Los Angeles
How will your activation mobilize Angelenos?
- Connect Angelenos with impactful volunteer opportunities
Describe in greater detail how your activation will make LA the best place to connect?
Exiting out of foster care can be a terrifying experience. For many young adults who have elected to stay in extended foster care, it will be their first time living on their own. Most of these young people have no support network, and no one to help them adjust to an ever complicated world. But they can have a CASA. It’s our job to recruit more Court Appointed Special Advocates to support these youth, and it’s our community’s opportunity to show up for them and say, “You are not alone.”
There are over 2,500 youth in Extended Foster Care in Los Angeles. In the next year or two, they will exit the system, and without help, their futures are challenging. According to a 2011 study, of the youth who age out of foster care in Los Angeles County, one third experienced extreme poverty, 20% received outpatient mental health services, 25% spent time in jail, only 25% were consistently employed, and nearly 40% become homeless. Only 4% will graduate from college. Additionally, young men and women of color are particularly over-represented in this system, and frequently struggle to access and maintain services available to them to help them successfully gain independence.
CASA volunteers are critical in helping these young adults negotiate the gauntlet of paperwork, meetings, and phone calls needed in order to access critical social and victim services. CASA of Los Angeles currently serves 100 of these young adults with intensive advocacy, and is launching programming to serve significantly more. This is an opportunity to support young adults in taking charge of their lives and futures — working with them on relationships, problem solving, personal responsibility and skill building to ensure they will thrive. As the students in the Cal State systems reflect the diversity of LA, this program will not only help to better support young men and women of color in the dependency care system, but will target recruitment of more culturally diverse volunteers. Through this project, CASA will recruit youth to serve youth. By training graduate level college students to help young adults exit out of foster care, we will be activating more young Los Angelenos in life-changing volunteer work. But most importantly, we will be helping to change the lives of young people who just need one person to help them succeed.
How will your activation engage Angelenos to make LA the best place to connect
CASA/LA has long realized how important it is to connect with younger members of the LA community, offering them an opportunity to not only change their life, but to change the life of a youth in foster care. The youth served by CASA/LA have entered the Los Angeles County juvenile dependency system because of abuse and neglect by their parents or caregivers. CASA/LA not only works to promote the permanency, safety, and well-being of youth who have experienced abuse and neglect, we are advancing justice amongst the most vulnerable young adults in the system. It is well-documented that child welfare struggles with racial, ethnic, and economic equity. A 2004 study found that in addition to being the largest system in the nation, Los Angeles County also has a disproportionate number of African American children in the system in comparison to their population size within the region. In 2016, 25% of children in DCFS were African-American (compared to 38% served by CASA). Throughout LA County, only 7.5% of all children were African-American. Over the last several years, CASA has developed specific recruitment strategies in order to better diversify our CASA volunteers. In the last year, CASA was proud to report that 36% of CASAs recruited were people of color. Through the Youth to Youth program, CASA/LA will recruit significantly more volunteers from more diverse environments to serve as peer-to-peer mentors for some of the most vulnerable youth in care.
Please explain how you will define and measure success for your activation.
In 2016, CASA/LA completed the full implementation and training for our new monitoring database Efforts to Outcomes (ETO) Social Solutions, which provides a way to track case progress, and is the beginning of outcomes measurement at CASA. When a case is assigned, both the Advocate Supervisors and the CASA volunteer examine the case and rate the status and level of risk of the child on a baseline scale along the three core dimensions of safety, permanency and well being. We are documenting in the database the initial assessment related to these dimensions; the advocacy goals and plans (steps and procedures to be implemented); the degree to which the plan is then implemented; and how the assessment of safety, permanency, and well-being measures changes over time. Through ETO, we will not only be able to track who has become activated through the LA2050 program, but how their work has changed the lives of the young adults they have been appointed to serve.
Where do you hope this activation or your organization will be in five years?
Through the Youth to Youth Program, CASA/LA hopes to activate some of our youngest community members in a life-changing volunteer opportunity in order to serve every young adult, aged 18-21, in Los Angeles County’s extended foster care with similarly life-changing advocacy.