connect Winner / 2020
Creating Connection & Community for Youth in Foster Care
A grant will ensure that youth aging out of foster care have a robust community of connection and support, particularly amidst our current health crisis, which makes them more vulnerable than ever. Since 2016, RTS has specialized in connecting these youth to the people and networks they need to advance in the modern workplace. As these youth now face unprecedented uncertainty, funding will allow us to combine forces with an aligned partner to provide the extra, dedicated social and emotional support that they will require during the next year.
Has your proposal changed due to COVID-19?
- Building community for RTS Scholars and SFLA youth will take place via virtual engagement opportunities. SFLA’s signature “First Saturday” events will transition to online workshops and events, web series, an online “life skills” academy, and a protected virtual community. All programming will be created and hosted by former foster youth and continue to bring people together to provide both learning and bonding activities.
- RTS will formalize its Alumni Council (40+ recent grads) and reach many more foster youth not yet involved with RTS or SFLA. RTS has formed an official Alumni Council which will build meaningful connections within RTS and also be the group working closely with the SFLA youth. Videos will be focused on mental health + wellness and educational and “exposure” content. RTS alumni, with their unique college and career experience and personal passions will become valuable trusted messengers to impact a large audience of youth.
- With digital programming we will be able to directly serve many more youth, increasing the number of students we serve from 90 to 155 (this number is based on the increase of youth RTS is serving through new programming and the number of youth at group homes that SFLA has been connecting with virtually during the crisis). The number of students indirectly impacted could rise well over 500 as content is shared through our extensive partnership network.
In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?
- County of Los Angeles
In what stage of innovation is this project?Expand existing program
Please list the organizations collaborating on this proposal.
- Stepping Forward LA
If you are submitting a collaborative proposal, please describe the specific role of partner organizations in the project.
Stepping Forward LA’s cornerstone service is its “Co-Mentoring” Program, which centers on a monthly “First Saturday” event, featuring workshops, motivational speakers, hands-on learning experiences, and relationship building activities. Through this ever-expanding community, current and former foster youth connect with volunteer mentors and peers to build interpersonal skills, confidence, a healthy self-image, trusting relationships, and a sense of belonging. Stepping Forward LA’s role in the project will center on extending this effective programming to Scholars in our program, formally integrating our program alumni into the organization’s community mentoring activities, and identifying youth who might benefit from cross-enrolling in their programs and our career development program.
What is the need you’re responding to?
Each year in LA, more than 1,000 youth age out of foster care, unprepared for adulthood and independence. Without intervention, by their mid-twenties, 30% will be homeless, 60% will become criminal justice system-involved, and 50% will be unemployed. Resilient youth continue to defy these odds. Each year, we enroll in our program 20-25 former foster youth “Scholars” on their way to becoming part of only 3% of foster youth nationally who will obtain a bachelor’s by age 26. In college, however, they continue to lack traditional supports that more privileged peers receive through family. In turn, they are significantly more likely to drop out, saddled with debt and no degree. The COVID crisis creates yet another barrier for youth who are already so vulnerable. Now more than ever, though we are physically distant, community is essential. While we can’t replace family, we can provide connection to positive individuals and networks that ensure youth are supported in this unprecedented time.
Why is this project important to the work of your organization?
Our approach to career development has always centered on connection. Our co-founders designed RTS to leverage their own robust networks spanning a variety of industries including media, tech, entertainment, and social services, cultivated over 40+ years of combined executive experience. In addition to coaching foster youth in the “hidden” tools and skills for success that youth who grow up in stable families with financial and social resources often gain through role modeling, we physically connect youth to the career mentors, internships, job positions, and company contacts needed to open doors. Our partner Stepping Forward LA – which possess a uniquely 100% former foster youth-staff – has cultivated a strong community of 50+ adult mentors who provide social and emotional support to foster youth on an ongoing basis. In collaboration, we will leverage our complementary strengths to provide amplified and comprehensive support to youth over the next year when they will need it most.
Approximately how many people will be impacted by this proposal?
- Direct impact
- Indirect impact
Please describe the broader impact of your proposal.
This grant will be a timely investment in ensuring that the youth we serve – who are attempting to navigate independence at this incredibly uncertain time – have access to a robust network of support. By combining our expertise in career development with Stepping Forward LA’s expertise in social wellbeing and community, we have a unique opportunity to integrate two successful models and become stronger together during this critical period. While this partnership will immediately benefit youth served, we believe that by successfully integrating resources, we will learn key lessons to guide the development of best practices to support Los Angeles in effectively responding to crises for years to come, particularly for vulnerable populations.
Please explain how you will define and measure success for your project.
We are proud to have grown from a small operation serving just 6 youth in 2016, to today serving a new class of 20-25 Scholars each year. Growing at this steady pace has enabled us to carefully and continuously refine our approach to yield impressive results: To date, 100% of our seniors have graduated in 4.5 years from top schools including UCLA, USC, and the CSU system, 94% have received and completed paid internship positions during their time in our program, and more than 90% have secured strong first jobs within just six months of graduation.
Where RTS provides career-centered support that youth need to advance through college, gain work experience, build networks and connections, and secure jobs in high-growth industries, Stepping Forward LA provides the consistent social and emotional support that is equally essential to setting them up to thrive. Within this community, over 90% of youth consistently report building healthy relationships, gaining exposure to new experiences, broadening their world views, and gaining a lifelong social safety net in which they can receive support during challenging times, celebrate achievements and holidays, and participate productively in their communities.
A successful partnership through this grant will yield a minimum of 90% positive outcomes for all youth served in each of the following metrics cited above: College graduation within 4.5 years; completion of paid internships, employment within six months, and increase in social and emotional wellbeing. Even in the midst of the uncertainty and chaos produced by our current environment, we are committed to sustaining these positive results and ensuring that youth can face their futures with optimism and preparedness as a result of our support.
On a longer-term basis, this grant will help us establish a sustainable and effective service partnership to benefit hundreds of additional youth for years to come.
Which of the connect metrics will your submission impact?
- Social and emotional support
Are there any other LA2050 goal categories that your proposal will impact?
- LA is the best place to LEARN
Which of LA2050’s resources will be of the most value to you?
- Access to the LA2050 community
- Communications support
- Strategy assistance and implementation