Legal-name: Extraordinary Families
Address: 221 N. Ardmore Avenue
City: Los Angeles
Contacttitle: Director of Philanthropy and Community Relations
GrantPurpose: COVID-19 has set in motion an impending disaster: An influx of children who will enter the child welfare system once restrictions have eased and slips into homelessness for former foster youth who are newly independent; this request addresses both disasters.
Periodoftime: 7 days/week for calendar year
Audienceserved: low-income, unemployed, food insecure, youth, children, families
Demoofaudience: 152 children aged 0-5; 18 children aged 6-17; 80 youth aged 18-26. As an integral function of its work, EF also serves 224 adults aged 25-64 (resource families, reunification work). Our primary focus is on children and youth who are entering and exiting the child welfare system and do not yet have incomes. As a result of COVID-19, many of the transition-age youth who did have a menial income have lost their jobs. The demographics are: • White: 23 foster youth, 175 foster parents, 8 UP4Youth • Latinx: 90 foster youth, 43 foster parents, 29 Up4Youth • Black: 63 foster youth, 18 foster parents, 37 UP4Youth • 2+: 14 foster youth, 21 foster parents, 4 UP4Youth • Asian: 3 foster youth, 9 foster parents • Native Islander: 1 foster youth, 5 foster parents
1. What disaster recovery service have already been provided? : Our work with children and families is designed to intervene upstream of disaster recovery – it prevents disaster. The COVID-19 crisis has underscored its importance – ensuring that resource families are supported as they foster children amidst uncertainty and engaging former foster youth who are only recently independent and are at great risk of dire outcomes including homelessness.
Our mission is to help children and youth in foster care to have the childhoods and futures they rightfully deserve. Our work consists of four primary efforts along a continuum of care:1) securing resource (foster) parents and homes for children entering the welfare system, 2) joining children and families through adoption, 3) supporting young adults with trauma and child welfare system histories as they transition to adulthood and 4) advocacy and public policy.
As a result of entering foster care, youth’s development is interrupted, as much of it is based upon the organic attachment that occurs in a healthy family. Resource families play an unparalleled role in meeting children’s immediate needs and providing stability and safety by providing care until it is safe for them to reunify with their family of origin, or by becoming their forever family. To support this crucial aspect of foster care, EF empowers the families, facilitates visits between foster youth and birth parents, and provides training-based support surrounding trauma-informed care; these services have continued through the crisis, albeit virtually. Because so much of the qualitative success of our programming is rooted in human connection and engagement, we have been augmenting supportive services from once weekly to thrice. We have also augmented birth family contact to the greatest extent possible. Finally, we have continued providing resource family support groups – always important for peer-level support but especially in this time of social distancing.
For youth who are newly independent and at greatest risk for negative outcomes resulting from social isolation, unemployment, and a fall back to mal-adaptive coping mechanisms, meaningful engagement and support represents frontline social disaster prevention. EF’s program to serve them (UP4Youth) centers upon resource coordination, employment services, education support, and mentoring. The program provides case management and coaching based on each youth’s unique history, challenges, and goals. EF develops tailored tools and matches youth with adult mentors to help them obtain resources, advance in education, build employment skills, and gain work experience to break out of the cycle of poverty. These youth are particularly vulnerable during a crisis such as this; so much effort is spent on helping them to build their agency, gain their confidence, and illuminate their strengths; the very deep impact of COVID is job loss, lack of human contact, and the general climate of fear have the potential to trigger past traumas and derail the progress that has been achieved to date. To mitigate this, we have increased check-ins and communication between youth and mentors/case managers, aggressively sought to engage former foster youth and sped up the mentor matching process, and solicited donations – immediately distributing funds to youth for their essential supplies.
2. What additional services, above your standard operations, will be conducted with this grant funding?: As pertains to our fostering/adoption work: According to the L.A. County Department of Child and Family Services, calls regarding potential child abuse/neglect are down by at least 50%. We attribute this primarily to the fact that schools are not in session (teachers are some of the most common mandated reporters). To that end, we anticipate an overwhelming swell of youth entering the child protective/foster care system, and this funding will be used in part to increase our efforts to recruit and train the resource families who will foster these new youth. Our resource family orientations and classes that increase capacity to properly care for traumatized youth are increasing in size every month; this is encouraging, though it has resulted in nearly double the work for recruitment specialists. In addition to the existing services that are provided to resource families (including the aforementioned training) and transition-age youth, these funds will be used to recruit many more additional resource families to address this influx of traumatized youth.
As mentioned above, our standard work with resource families and families of origin has continued. The increased contact that is necessary to ensure that families feel supported despite social distancing is resulting in dramatic increases in staff time. Examples include reporting to Community Care Licensing, education plans and assistance with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) for each child every week, reports on each foster home’s plan for isolation/action plan for the household in case of sickness, and, of course, a large increase in frequency of case notes.
As it pertains to our work to support transition-age former foster youth: Again, these youth are in a precarious position; more than 25% of former foster children become homeless within two to four years of leaving the system, and it’s imperative to prevent that. These funds will be used to supplement the existing work with this population that was described above. Namely, we are implementing additional mental health supports for program participants who are A) sheltering in place and B) have lost their employment as a result of COVID-19. Additionally, we are increasing the case management-related work with participants to ensure that they are assisted in obtaining unemployment benefits and/or making use of other benefits to which they are entitled. This is coupled with the case managers’ distribution of food, supplies, and basic necessities to those who are struggling with loss of income. Finally, staff are providing increased employment-centric services (resume-building, job hunting, etc.) to ensure that they hit the ground running when these current restrictions ease. All of this work is intended to A) prevent homelessness and B) provide increased support for their past traumas that have been re-triggered as a result of isolation.
This proposal to supplement our work represents a rare opportunity to intervene upstream of the impending disaster of youth who will need to be removed from abusive and neglectful homes and the disaster of former foster youth who are at risk of yet again falling through the cracks into homelessness and despair.
3. What individuals (and/or organizations) will you assist? : EF serves three populations with its programs – the children who are in the midst of the foster care system and are living in the homes of resource families, the resource families themselves, and former foster youth who are newly independent, having aged out of the foster care system.
The youth who are currently enrolled in the foster care system and the youth who are newly independent have endured significant trauma. Indeed, up to 80 percent of youth in foster care have significant diagnosable mental health issues that include PTSD, depression, and other trauma-based responses. For those who have not aged out of the system, EF addresses these trauma responses by carefully seeking, vetting, and supporting resource families. Once placed in a healthy environment, the family receives the full breadth and depth of EFs training, technical assistance, and supportive service continuum – we train the family to acknowledge the trauma journey of their foster child with the goal of developing their capacity to provide informed, consistent, and effective care.
The importance of addressing children’s traumas as early as possible could not be more underscored by what we know of those who have not received quality care. Annually in LA County, over 1,100 young people ages 18-21 aged out into an uncertain adulthood with little to no tangible or emotional support. These youth exit the system abruptly while still attempting to cope with the impact of their exposure to traumatic experiences. In fact, their trauma is compounded from multiple events: the neglect or abuse that brought them into the system, the removal from their family of origin, and the multiple moves and frequent instability during their time in care. As a result of this compounded and complex trauma, youth face incredible challenges in becoming self-sufficient, particularly considering they do not have a permanent family structure to rely on for support. Upon aging out, only 50% of youth have a high school diploma, 71% are unemployed, and 10% have no financial support. By their mid-twenties, 30% have been homeless, 60% have been involved with the criminal justice system, 20% still lack a diploma, and 46% are unemployed. Foster youth’s economic barriers are further complicated by the fact that they experience mental health disorders at a rate 2-4 times higher than their non-foster peers.
EF’s continuum serves 545 people with these disaster-preventing services, made up of 186 youth participating in the foster program, 279 foster parents, and 80 UP4Youth program participants.
4. What other disaster recovery funds have you received? What amount? EF has not yet received disaster-specific funding as it relates to COVID-19. We have submitted a rapid response application to the California Community Foundation in the amount of $10,000. Further, we applied for – and received – the forgivable loan administered by the Small Business Administration in the amount of $350,700.
It is also relevant to mention that several of EF’s longstanding funding partners such as the Gogian Foundation have administered emergency funding ($20,000) – unrestricted, flexible dollars that have helped with our capacity to provide the emergency-based services that have come to define the provision of care in the midst of this crisis.
5. What other disaster recovery funds have you applied for? California Community Foundation and the aforementioned Small Business Administration loan (received).