Fostering Youth Independence has launched its year-end giving campaign to support local foster youth aging out of the L.A. County foster system without ever finding a permanent home and family.
Funds raised will support the currently 76 local foster youth FYI serves as they work to complete a post-secondary education, and also provide emergency assistance to these youth when unexpected expenses threaten to derail their path towards becoming successful, independent adults.
This year donations to FYI will go even further with a dollar-for-dollar match up to $25,000, made possible by the generous gifts from its matching donor team made up of its board of directors and other benefactors.
To illustrate the impact FYI can make supporting local foster youth, FYI’s co-founder and executive director Carolyn Olsen points to a youth named Steven* who first came to FYI’s attention through another FYI youth who was concerned Steven was struggling and needed help. Steven was encouraged to reach out to FYI’s Program Director Gina Stevens, who learned that he had been homeless since he was 17 when his adoptive mother abandoned him.
A senior at Golden Valley High School, Steven couch surfed for a while but eventually found himself living on the streets and unable to attend school. When he reached out to FYI, he had just been beaten up by a group of teens who had stolen the backpack that contained the only food, water, and possessions he had. FYI immediately referred him to the local homeless shelter and made an appointment for him to come to the FYI office.
During his intake appointment, Steven shared that he was four years old when he entered the foster care system along with his eight siblings. After bouncing from foster home to foster home, he was adopted at the age of nine and had some stability until he was 14, when his adoptive father died. After three years of turmoil, his adoptive mother returned to her home country in South America, leaving Steven to fend for himself. He described the anxiety and despair that he had experienced since then. He constantly worried about his next meal and said, “I pray to God everyday asking him to save me.”
Through FYI’s connections with the Children’s Law Center, they helped Steven reopen his case with the Department of Children and Family Services, even though he is already 18 years old, allowing him to receive a housing stipend until his 21st birthday. FYI also helped Steven enroll in a local charter school so he can complete his high school diploma, and he was paired with an Ally who is providing the emotional support and encouragement Steven needs to get his life back on track.
Thanks to FYI’s connections in the community, recently Steven moved into permanent housing that FYI secured for him, and he received donations of a bed, dresser, and refrigerator. Steven has since told FYI how well he has been sleeping now that he finally has his own bed.
“This is just one story out of many that shows how a caring community is able to help a struggling foster youth,” said Olsen. “And our fundraising campaign is vital to support the many needs of our youth,” pointing to examples of how contributions would be used.
$25 covers the cost of an item a youth needs to learn a trade (e.g., safety goggles, welding gloves or scrubs).
$50 pays for a tank of gas so a youth can get to work or school.
$100 supplies one week’s worth of groceries for a youth facing financial hardship.
$150 pays for a behind-the-wheel driving lesson so a youth can get a driver’s license.
$250 provides a two-night emergency stay at a motel or help with rent for a youth facing homelessness.
“Any amount donors invest in FYI will be used where the need is greatest, and leveraged to empower our local youth to succeed,” Olsen said.
Further information about Fostering Youth Independence and how to donate can be found on the website.