Nationwide, according a report from Children Uniting Nations, as of 2014 463,000 American children live in foster care. California has a larger number of children in the system than any other state based on a 2009 AFCARS report.
Generally at age 18 these young adults are considered “emancipated” and “age out” of the foster care system. According to an article by John Kelly Editor-In-Chief of the Chronicle For Social Change and the Alliance for Children’s Rights, the number of young adults in California staying in the system for extended foster care up to age 21 has more than doubled since 2012 from 2,000 to over 5,000. The fact is whether at age 18 or 21 these young adults exit the system and then what?
The answers are in the data from WELIFTLA and Alliance for Children’s Rights .
· The stats for those exiting without any sort of housing have varied from 30 – 65% depending on the year
· 50% of those aging out in Los Angeles County don’t graduate high school (1)
· Nationally 99% will not successfully complete college. In California this stat though still abysmal is a tiny bit better with a shameful 3% exiting the system completing college (1 )
· 70% of those incarcerated in California are former foster care youth
· 36% of those “aged out” are homeless within 18 months
· 40% are receiving public assistance within 2 years
· 50% of all female former foster care youth become pregnant by age 19
The elephant in the room? There is a glaring lack of mentoring, guidance and opportunities to learn by example, which these youth have never had. These are missing building blocks for the skills and attributes for successful transition to positive and productive adulthood and life skills for self-sufficiency.
The goal of WELIFTLA is to make a difference by filling in some of these missing building blocks. Joyce Harmon the organization’s CEO and Founder spent years as a successful executive in the textile industry. She’d begun questioning what she really wanted her life to be about. She felt an undeniable desire to do something meaningful for others. In 2006 she founded The Work Of Angels while still working fulltime. It was a work in progress with an initial direction to do something to help youth.
It all came together in 2009 while watching a Lifetime Television movie called “America.” The film was produced by Rosie O’Donnell and she starred as a psychiatrist treating a biracial 17-year old boy named America who had experienced a difficult life of foster care and sexual abuse. According to Joyce, “I was struck by these kids that were falling through the cracks.” Then and there it became her life’s mission to do something about it. And WELIFTLA was born.
The organization partners with independent living group homes including Penny Lane, Women’s Care Cottage and Pacific Lodge Youth Services. Using the services of volunteers WELIFTLA provides mentorship, parenting, career and financial planning workshops as well as academic counseling and anger management programs.
The organization recently began working with California State University’s Resilient Scholars Program and acquired a home that will provide campus housing and in-home support for five CSUN students who are former foster care youth.
In addition volunteer services and general donation needs to provide program support and materials the organization currently has a special fundraising matching gift initiative to help with renovation and other needs of their new CSUN WELIFTLA House. For every dollar donated up to $10,000 for the house two loyal supporters have committed to a dollar for dollar match doubling the impact of your contribution.
To learn how you can get involved and to make a donation visit http://www.weliftla.org