Beyond Simple Tutoring

I am a recent tutor for a resident at the Launch Pad. I volunteered with this position seeing a very practical way I can come alongside God’s work with TLF at the Launch Pad. It combined my love of the medical field and training as a nurse with my faith of seeing what God could do with my experience and knowledge. It was interesting to see how He uses this relationship to even break the borders of expectations I had in the most basic ways.

I had been tutoring a resident at The Launch Pad for a couple months and noticed the resident having a hard time focusing. This was done rightly so with her toddler running around and being so active. The solution was very simple to me, I didn’t even think twice. The toddler just needed to be entertained, so I purchased a toddler toy car to do this. This has impacted our work together tremendously! My mentee has been able to focus and making studying so much more effective for her, even in our time not spent together.

I am humbled to see how God used such a simple task. I didn’t realize the impact of something I didn’t necessarily see as a huge blessing, but as a practical step to entertain a toddler. My goal was to help in educating my mentee. This is still my goal and the way God is using me as a vessel. He, however has plans I cannot foresee and in the most simplest of avenues. The Church in Action is the vessel God uses to help a mom studying with a distracted toddler. So simple, but the biggest and personal sign of love and care for this resident.



I am a caregiver of two precious siblings.

“Jackie” is 11, and her brother, “Steve”, is 16. My “caregiver confession” is that I, alone, cannot meet all the needs of these children.

But, I’ve learned, that I don’t have to. It is very hard to find quality time for myself on a consistent basis between homework, practices, projects, household chores, health challenges, etc. I cannot put into words how much having mentors for each of the kids has helped. Having such a positive role model in their lives to spend one-on-one time with them is tremendous. They gain positive experiences and do things they probably wouldn’t have an opportunity to do otherwise. Both children have gained direction in their futures and have grown in self-esteem and trust.

In the past six months that Jackie has had a mentor, she has become more responsible, thoughtful, and considerate of others. She and her mentor have gone to see plays, they go to church, go out to eat, and the mentor attends all of her volleyball games! Jackie’s favorite thing to do is go to the beach, and they do that a lot. It is so encouraging to me to see them do the very simple things I wish I had time to do with her myself.

Steve and his mentor first met 18 months ago. They go out to eat and talk about future goals and college. His mentor helps him discover interests, and they have created a book club with a list of classics to read together. Having someone to share his love of reading reminds him that he is not alone. Through time with his mentor, he’s matured and he has a greater sense of direction. He is more responsible, going to school early and staying later to talk with the teachers, and now has his mind set on college. He is already figuring out which one to go to and is looking for a job. He is currently working on improving his grades with his mentor and plans to start driving soon!

I am so grateful for TLF and the ways they’ve impacted not just my youth’s life, but my life as well. They have impacted our entire family for the better.

**Names have been changed for privacy purposes. 

To learn more about how you can support the efforts of Teen Leadership Foundation, click here. 



Gaining a Teen Mom’s Trust

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Teen Leadership Foundation was a light for me when a Church leader mentioned the work they were doing with foster teens and those who have emancipated out of the system. Immediately, I was moved by the work they were doing and felt heavy hearted like I needed to reach out.

God woke me out of my routine and reminded me of how much He’s brought me through in my own life. I understood what it was like to be alone as a single mom and to feel unloved. My hardships and tears made me into a person who could relate to people in difficult situations.

So I followed my hunch and signed up for training with TLF in hopes of becoming a mentor. The training was eye opening to say the least. What struck me most was hearing that some youth pull away from you when they are afraid to lose you. This truth broke my heart and meant I would need to love unconditionally. I was to go all in and not turn back. I believed I could do that so I signed up.

The day came when I got to meet Anna. At first it was awkward. I got that skeptical, mistrusting up and down glance and thought, yikes, this might be harder than I thought. Who was I any ways? But little by little, and visit after visit, she let me into her world. It was such a privilege she trusted me enough to share her struggles and woes. She also was a single mom, so I knew God placed me with the right person.

Anna became so easy to love. I saw through to her big heart so hurt by past memories. Any doubts I may have had of myself to be enough, to impact and help someone else in this way, soon passed away. Her trusting spirit and determination was a gift for me. And her love for her son gave me such joy to witness.

Challenges come and go like seasons and she continues to blossom. It’s beautiful I get to be a part of such an amazing young woman’s life and her precious son. She’s helped me to see when I step out in faith into the unknown, get my feet wet, and then my whole body, true life begins.

Miracles come when you walk out of your comfort zone. Anne has given me a new stride and an everlasting gift that will out run and out live this life. She’s taught me to trust where God is leading me and to see His wonder as He makes us whole again each time we step out.


Words From a Counselor…

“I wonder if the disciples were as speechless as I am??  How do I put into words what amazing miracles my God did, how it shook me to the core, filled me with joy, and wrecked me at the same time?

God was highlighted throughout the camp in an undeniable way. Two of the campers and myself came together and wrote a worship song called “Breakdown Into Your Arms”. There were late night breakthroughs during small groups with my boys, Scott, Ben, Andrew, Brandon and Sean, that really brought the barriers down in the other guys, if only for a minute. Late night UNO games led to building relationships with campers like Chris and Toby. One of the most inspiring moments was watching the tenacity in Tracy, she continued to bring hope to her fellow campers.

Then there was the Domino’s skit where the love of Jesus was displayed through the art of theater. In the skit the boys would be picked up by Jesus to form a cross, time and time again Satan would swoop in to knock one of them over, creating a domino effect that left no man standing. Jesus was always there to pick up his children, restore them and put them back where they belonged. It was incredibly touching and beautiful.What a blessing to partner with Jesus to love on His kids!!”

-TLF Camp Counselor

The List

“Two weeks ago I participated in Teen Leadership Camp and saw first hand how tangible and easy it was to help youth in foster care. When I first met my camper, Juan, he was wearing a red Anaheim Angel’s hat and sweatshirt. He seemed like a pretty normal kid. On the bus ride up to camp he shared  with me the very unfortunate story of his father’s public murder. After his father’s death, at the age of 12, Juan was placed into foster care where he had been for about a year. He explained that his brothers were now back with his biological mother, and that he did not want to go back with her for a variety of reasons. Although he cares for his foster parents deeply, they also thought it was best for him to live with his biological family. They asked him to come back from camp with a list of reasons why he felt staying with the foster family would be best. That list became our special project and we continued to work on it all weekend. I asked him questions and helped him articulate eight reasons why it was better for him to stay with his foster family. These reasons ranged from school stability to physical abuse , verbal abuse, mental abuse and everything in between. As simple as this task was, my prayer is that our work at camp will help him stay in a loving and supportive family. These kids need to feel Christ’s love through our words, time, talents, and resources.”

…TLC Camp Counselor

Camp Miracles

Told from the eyes of a camp counselor…

“All, I have wonderful news and want to shout it from the rooftops so I apologize for the overly wide distribution.

What an amazing experience I had this past weekend with 30 other counselors at the Teen Leadership Foundation Camp (TLF) that the Grove Community Church of Riverside held for the Foster kids in their community.

Our weekend was packed full of awesome events and opportunities to bless all the kids with affirmation, kindness and life skills.

I was paired with my camper from Friday morning until we left Sunday afternoon.  We went very deep into his story and current challenges. This event allowed me to share some wisdom from The Bible about love, 1 Corinthians 13, and identify some positive steps he could make in building a healthy foundation in his life.

Initially I was worried about spending too much time with him and burning out, but we were grouped with 3 other pairs of one-on-one campers to counselors. There were 8 total in our small group where we ate together, did team building activities, high ropes (30-100 feet in the air), skits, songs, group discussions, made s ‘mores and played fun games. At the end of the camp today, my camper made the decision along with 8 other teens to commit their lives to Christ!! It was truly an amazing experience and the Grove leadership (Stacey Syrocki) did a wonderful job picking out two powerful speakers who spoke to the camp about grace in their own lives. The environment at the Alpine Camp in Lake Arrowhead had a perfect mix of events, staff, and food to fill our weekend with great memories. It was awesome to experience.”

-Josh Gladness

Creating Systematic & Sustainable Change

Teen Leadership Foundation continues to be a powerful force linking the faith community to local governments. By supporting our partnering organizations with assistance, awareness and organizational training we are able to promote systemic and sustainable change in the lives of emancipating youth.  TLF continues to be recognized as a growing nation-wide organization that is continually creating a voice that would not normally be heard. Recently TLF was asked to write an article in Fostering Families Today on how we work to provide better outcomes for youth in care. TLF’s founder, Lisa Castetter, decided to write the article from her own personal journey in mentoring, the path through it and the outcomes from it. 

The article is titled: Closing the Chasm of the Team

As we approach the summer months and prepare for our multiple leadership camps around Southern California and the Pacific Northwest contact your local church partner for more information on how you can become a long term life changing mentor to a youth in foster care.

-Teen Leadership Foundation

Lisa will be speaking at Summit 9 in Nashville, Tennessee May 2-3.




In 2008 I began my journey with Teen Leadership Foundation feeling scared and not really sure what I had signed up for. I met a girl who flinched when I went to high five her. Each summer I return to teen leadership camp as a counselor and each year when I see her I am witness to her growth and trust in all of us. This past year when I saw her at camp registration I yelled out her name across the room. She saw me; ran and gave me a GIANT HUG! We are passed the awkward “slow high five stage!” We are past that season when I had to warn her, ” here comes a high five”; so she would not flinch and be in fear. We have entered into friendship with “camp” a common thread each summer for both of us. I know she is excited to see me each summer and I am excited to see her. I think about her all year round.

– Bethany, camp counselor


On the way up to the weekend for teen leadership camp I was thinking – I am over 6 decades older than John… will I make a difference?  John had not participated in anything and the afternoon was almost over. There he lay, on the edge of the grass with his baseball cap covering his face. I went over, knelt beside him and had my face inches from his.

It did not take long for him to realize someone was there.

I asked, “Are you OK?


“Is anything wrong?”


“I like the color of your hair, a mixture of brown and black.”

We sat side by side facing each other and I discovered he composed poetry. I told him I was impressed by his ability and I encouraged him to write a couple of poems while at camp this weekend.  He went on to let me know his ball cap was special because his mother gave it to him.   He last saw his mother 2 months ago.

I sat….pondering how to reach him.

Because he said he liked intellectual things I decided to give him 2 questions to think about over the weekend.

#1 what am I going to do with the rest of my life?

#2 what makes for a successful life? NOT “what makes for success in life?’

Saturday morning I gave him another thought.

#3 the way you play the game in camp is exactly the way you play the game of life. He agreed and said he isolates and finds peace in marijuana.

We found ourselves together on the field where he asked, “Where is God?” “I pray and see no answer.” We sat on the stone wall for about 20-30 minutes discussing this.

How do you answer this question of a 15 year old boy who has been bounced around and smokes marijuana?  As we talked we also admired the beauty of creation, especially the bright stars scattered across expanse of the sky.  Sunday morning we had to clear out of the cabins. I was the last to leave and found a piece of paper on the floor with a poem

Thy light that shines throughout the starry night – That gives us hope and shines our doubts away

That shines like a beacon and tells the world it’ll be OK

Never at peace ;full of uncertainty –  Wanting to hope; in the Almighty

A response

He’s been searching for me; all this time – And I never realized it

He’s here – He’s there- He’s where I need Him- He’s when I need Him

It’s my choice; My choice to join Him; To become a follower; not just a fan; For this I was created

To praise His Holy name;  To praise Him;  Just like the stars in the sky

As the bus was ready to leave, I gave him my baseball cap to add to his collection. To my surprise he took off the cap he had been wearing all weekend, the one given to him by his mother, and put on my beat up old cap.  He said the camp was much better than he had expected and he looks forward to returning next year.

Lisa Castetter | Founder, Executive Director

Love Wins

As the end of 2011 is approaching, it is a great time for reflection – the holidays bring all sorts of emotions this time of the year. I look back on my life and the opportunities I have been given and I am truly grateful. There was a time in my life when I believed myself to be a charity case. That the only reason I could see anyone helping me out during my life, was to satisfy their own needs to help the “needy”. I then learned that there was so much more to my interpretation of the story.

A mentor once told me  that you cannot be angry and grateful at the same time.

That statement really stuck with me. At the time, I was so angry at the world, I felt as an outcast, taken advantage of and truly in despair. It is from this place that my gifts were born, where God showed me that I am responsible for the way I chose to interpret my life.

As I began to take hold of my narrative, I saw a multitude of stories. In one, I was the charity case, another the Selfish Taker, the survivor, a constantly cared for foster youth who was always at the mercy of those who provided for her, so that when they no longer saw my “need,” I would no longer be of importance. On the flip side, I could decide that I was not entitled to anything, that I was part of God’s plan and my purpose required a diverse upbringing that made me relatable to so many more people because of my experiences. This may seem a cliché twist to see the good in the suffering, but by this I stand.

I believe transformation took place in my life when I quit looking at it through the lens of scarcity. As a foster youth many of us are born into the mentality of having our worlds defined for us. Consequently, when given the opportunity to choose our own, it is a scary place. A place where we feel ill-equipped and at times at a standstill to even accomplish the ability to give love. When I looked around however, I saw this “illness” abundant in other people as well, people from completely different situations or circumstances than mine. It was then I decided that I was going to allow Love to win. Each family that said “yes” to provide for me became a winner in my story, a champion of my cause, an opportunity for me to practice demonstrating love. The result? I am now a healthy 24-year-oldc ollege graduate, who is living independently, seeks to have a family, and hopes to be a foster parent myself someday.

At 24, I see a bright future ahead for my brothers and sisters in foster care and it is organizations such as Teen Leadership Foundation who continue to improve the statistics by improving the ability for foster youth to truly connect through relationships. It is this mission to not just raise funds but to maintain a clear action plan that inspires me to want to support this community in any way possible . As the 2012 year approaches it is my prayer that Teen Leadership Foundation receives abundant supply so that lives of foster youth are changed and that the next generation will look back unlike the generations before and say, LOVE WINS!

Please Donate Now. Every little bit helps!

– Annette Jordan, Foster Youth Alumni, Entrepreneur and  Speaker

“I will not leave you orphaned”- Jesus Christ