Local nonprofit Fostering Youth Independence is seeking “Allies” to work one-on-one with Santa Clarita youth who are aging out of the L.A. County foster care system. A special training session is scheduled Thursday, Nov. 17, for interested volunteers.
Volunteer Allies have the unique opportunity to directly impact the lives of Santa Clarita’s transition-age foster youth (ages 16 to 25) by providing support and helping them obtain needed resources. Allies also offer encouragement as the youth work to complete a post-secondary education, and prepare to become successful, independent adults.
FYI has also announced its year-end giving campaign, which launches on Giving Tuesday, Nov. 29, with a $20,000 dollar-for-dollar match to double the impact of contributions to support foster youth in Santa Clarita.
To illustrate the impact of the community’s support of local foster youth, FYI’s co-founder and Executive Director Carolyn Olsen points to a pair of sisters who, after an unstable childhood of foster care placement and the eventual deaths of both of their parents, were placed by the foster system with their biological aunt.
“The preference of the foster care system is to keep children with biological family members, but it is not always the best option for the children,” said Olsen. “The aunt kicked Sarah* out at age 18 but adopted Jamie* when she was 14. Jamie was forbidden to have any communication with Sarah, so they lost contact.” (*Names changed to protect privacy.)
Following years of abuse in her aunt’s home, Jamie was told to leave when she was 19. With no place to go, Jamie reached out to her friend, Bree*, also a foster youth, to ask if she could stay with her, but Bree had a better idea. Bree and Jamie’s sister, Sarah, were both FYI participants. Bree let Sarah know of Jamie’s situation, and Sarah immediately took Jamie under her wing.
Sarah invited Jamie to stay at her apartment and brought her to FYI for support. Jamie needed her birth certificate, Social Security card and medical insurance. She wanted to enroll in school but didn’t think she could afford it. She needed help finding a job and getting her driver’s license. FYI helped Jamie reconnect with the Department of Children and Family Services and obtain a monthly housing stipend and other resources. FYI also helped her get a copy of her birth certificate and Social Security card, and enroll in MediCal.
Jamie was paired with an adult volunteer Ally who is providing the encouragement and support Jamie needed to find a job and enroll in school. She is currently working 25 hours per week at a local retailer where she has been recognized as No. 1 in sales. She is also taking three classes at College of the Canyons and aspires to someday become a surgeon.
She participated in FYI’s “Ready, Set, Drive! program, introduced this year to help FYI youth obtain their driver’s licenses. Jamie earned her instructional permit, took three driving lessons that were paid for by the program, and is scheduled to take her behind-the-wheel test.
Olsen said, “It’s been a joy to watch Jamie blossom as she receives the support and resources she needs to become a successful, independent adult, and it’s been heartwarming to see the two sisters reconnect. We’re also delighted to hear from Jamie’s Ally that her relationship with Jamie has filled a void in her own life and has been the highlight of her year.
The Nov. 17 training session is scheduled to be held at 6 p.m. at Christ Lutheran Church in room 12/13. To learn more or to register for the training, email Darlene at [email protected]. More information about Fostering Youth Independence can be found at www.fyifosteryouth.org.