April is National Volunteer Month and Fostering Youth Independence is celebrating the many members of the community who have stepped up to support local foster youth since the organization’s founding five years ago in the Santa Clarita Valley.
A total of 134 volunteers have contributed their talents to the nonprofit in areas including being an Ally, board member, or tutor, or have helped with youth events, fundraising and administrative tasks.
“We’re incredibly grateful for all our volunteers who have generously donated their time and talents to our youth,” said Carolyn Olsen, executive director and co-founder. “Especially vital to the mission of FYI is an Ally, a caring adult who is paired with a youth to provide support and encouragement as they join with us to change their youth’s life and overcome the cycle of challenges that are endemic to foster youth.”
One Ally, Wayne Karatsu, recently wrote a blog post about volunteering with Fostering Youth Independence. Read Karatu’s blog here.
“I have been volunteering there for almost two years now and am an Ally, as opposed to simply a mentor, to a young man who recently graduated from high school and attended a local community college. He is now thinking of starting his own business and, as his Ally, I will be there to offer encouragement and moral support,” Karatsu said. “As the name suggests, fostering youth independence is the goal, but foster youth must learn interdependence as well. Many do not trust adults and often with good reason. It’s hard for them to believe that anyone would care about them, at least not without getting paid for it. By building trust and rapport with a youth, you show that there are people who can be counted on and will be there when needed, whether it’s moving furniture into a first apartment, filling out a tax return, or helping with math homework.”
Karatsu said interdependence goes “both ways.”
“I hope that I’ve helped and encouraged my youth in the time that I’ve known him, but I know that I’ve gained a lot of positives from our relationship. He, like many of the youth that I’ve met in the program, has a huge heart and is always willing to help others. I can’t help but be inspired when I see these kids overcome such difficult circumstances and develop the skills necessary to become successful adults,” Karatsu said.
Karatsu emphasized that Fostering Youth Independence is amazing organization that serves the SCV and that there is a need for volunteers, citing a few statistics that illustrate the need:
— More than 23,000 children age out of the foster care program every year
— 20% of those will become homeless instantly when they turn 18
— Only half of the foster children who age out will be gainfully employed by the age of 24
— Less than 3% will earn a college degree
— 25% suffer from PTSD
“So the need is there for anyone looking to help. I got involved because I wanted to do something to help, even if it was only one youth, but I’ve gained so much more in the process,” said Karatsu.
Those interested in learning about becoming an Ally can attend Fostering Youth Independence’s next training session on Tuesday, April 12, at 6 p.m. For more information or to register for the session, email Darlene at email@example.com.
“We’re so grateful for Wayne, and our other Allies and volunteers,” said Olsen. “We couldn’t have supported over 100 local youth since our 2017 founding without all of those in our community who give of themselves so selflessly.”
Fostering Youth Independence welcomes donations to support their work with foster youth and these can be submitted by visiting Fostering Youth Independence Donations or, alternatively, contacting the nonprofit at (661) 360-1500.
Fostering Youth Independence is a Santa Clarita-based nonprofit (501c3) organization that supports local foster youth who have aged out of the Los Angeles County foster care system without being adopted or reunified with their birth parents. The nonprofit addresses the serious challenges faced by these youth, which include not finishing high school or pursuing higher education, homelessness and incarceration.
Fostering Youth Independence offers current and former foster youth, ages 16-25 years, a caring adult “Ally” to provide the one-on-one guidance and encouragement they need to complete a post-secondary education, as well as resources to help these youth overcome past traumas, complete an education, gain employment and become successful, independent adults.
The nonprofit has supported 102 foster youth since the organization’s founding in 2017 and currently serves 60 foster youth, the majority of whom are attending College of the Canyons.
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