The Network-Getting Started

The secret to getting ahead is getting started.
-Mark Twain

Taking the first step is often the hardest part of any journey. At TLF, we know that helping former foster teens with foundational steps is crucial to their future success. Our programs are designed to give them the support and resources they need to make a successful transition into adulthood.

So, we are excited to announce our newest program: The Network. The Network is an employment readiness program that will help participants learn how to navigate conflict in the workplace, build strong communication skills, and take ownership of their professional development.

The Network was created in response to feedback we received from former foster youth struggling to move into the workforce.  Many of them told us that they felt ill-prepared to deal with the challenges of the workplace and that they wished they had a better understanding of how to navigate the process: from interviews and resumes to conflict and communicating effectively with their co-workers. We knew we needed to do something to support them, so we developed The Network.

For a former foster youth, this looks like…

Louis
Louis is enrolled in TLF’s new employment readiness initiative. Since exiting foster care, he has had difficulty landing a job. However, with the guidance of a group mentor, Louis feels empowered to make changes that will improve his future prospects. These changes include being more disciplined on social media channels and setting boundaries while also being encouraging and upbeat. Louis completes The Network’s “workforce development program” and is then connected with an internship in his desired career path, which leads to full-time employment.

Anna
Anna, who is set to graduate high school in a few months, seeks to gain an edge in the job market by becoming more confident in her interview skills. She knows that being better prepared will help her feel more confident when speaking with potential employers.

Anna completes TLF’s employment readiness program, The Network. Through the program, she has the opportunity to practice describing her skills clearly and identifying areas of growth. She is able to identify specific examples from her life that illustrate how these skills will be beneficial in a work setting. Through networking in the program, Anna is introduced to a hiring manager, and she is ecstatic to use the skills she learned in a real-life setting to move towards a career.

Jessica
Jessica is experiencing some communication difficulties with a few colleagues at her new job. She wants to learn how to better handle this type of conflict in the workplace so that she can continue supporting herself financially. Her friend Louis tells her about TLF’s new employment readiness program, The Network, and says that it helped him work through some similar issues.

Jessica is committed to understanding the 7 C’s of communication, ensuring that her messages are: clear, concise, concrete, correct, coherent, complete, and courteous. She is pleasantly surprised by how frequently talking through the 7 C’s of communication in conversation enhances her relationship with coworkers. After several weeks of putting the 7 C’s into practice, Jessica is able to effectively resolve the communication difficulties she was experiencing at work.

The Network is a great opportunity for former foster youth to learn the skills they need to be successful in the workforce. We are excited to offer this program and look forward to seeing the positive impact it has on our participants.

If you or your church family is interested in partnering with us and offering The Network Curriculum, please contact us at info@teenleadershipfoundation.org

It Starts With a Job

For former foster youth, getting a job is a big deal.

For Emily, it is the first step in a long journey towards sustainability as she navigates school, childcare, obtain’s a driver’s license and much more.

Finding and keeping a job is a common challenge for former foster youth. In fact, only 50% of young adults who have aged out of the foster care system are employed, according to a study by the National Youth in Transition Database.

There are many reasons why employment rates are so low among former foster youth. One reason is that they often lack a strong support system to help them with the transition to adulthood.
Former foster youth also face many challenges that other young adults do not, such as trauma, mental health issues, and instability. These factors can make it difficult for them to maintain consistent employment.

AT TLF, we want to celebrate these first entry-level employment jobs.

After we linked Emily with 211, she was able to finish the curriculum from them in order to receive their requirements for employment. She is in her first week of training and thoroughly enjoying it. This is a work-from-home opportunity.

Emily shared, “I really like the job, it is challenging but interesting because I am able to learn about recourses that can help me in the long run as well”
It is hard to only have about 20 minutes on the phone with someone and have to assist them and then not really know if they were able to get the help they needed, but I think it will help me with obtaining a career in some sort of dispatching. I am not looking into emergency dispatching because this will be great on my resume”

She is hoping this could take her into a career as a 911 operator or working for the county dispersing resources help for people in similar situations as her.

We are excited to see what the future holds for Emily and how she will use her newfound skills and knowledge to help herself and others!

Foster the Future

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world” – Nelson Mandela

When our resident’s join us school has often been put on the backburner.

Shylie came to us in April of this year, at the age of eighteen, and is now enrolled in a High School Diploma program through the Orange County Department of Education with a goal of graduating in 2023. After a two-year absence from school, she is now plugging away. With help from our TLF coaches and mentors, she’s learning how to take notes, study for exams, and actively listen and participate in a classroom setting again.

All of this is going on while she is looking for part-time work, attending weekly therapy, and getting into shape to combat her triggers and learn how to cope with stress to avoid relapse. Shylie’s aim is to go to cosmetology school and eventually work as a hairdresser in a salon.

Another of our residents is Sandy, who is also 18 years old. She has completed her orientation for her High School Diploma program with Orange County Department of Education and is awaiting to receive her class schedule. She stopped attending school when she first got pregnant with her son who is now 2, and then after returning paused again at the peak of COVID.

For many of our resident’s, it’s difficult to stay focused on school and push through obstacles because of past trauma. Our volunteers are critical in providing the safety and support system they need to move forward with confidence.

Sandy is focused on graduating from high school and reuniting with her son while maintaining her sobriety. As for the long run, she’s still figuring out what career to pursue. A big challenge for her has been time management and she is working hard with our team to organize and prioritize what’s important.

We couldn’t do what we do without you, and we’d like to make your giving more personal.

We invite you to be a member of the Leadership Circle, our new monthly donor club. Give a monthly gift of $20 or more and receive a Foster the Future t-shirt (shown below) to wear and share with others the youth you support.

What you do matters!

Join today! Click to donate

 

Gaining a Teen Mom’s Trust

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 outrun and outlive 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.

May is national foster care month. Please consider the impact mentoring made on my life and Anna’s and consider partnering with TLF.

 

Be There

This past year I was given a 17-year-old camper to lead for Teen Leadership Camp weekend. We’ll call her Sherrie. Sherrie was a particularly complicated girl. At times she was so mature but could suddenly switch over to reveal the broken heart of a very needy child.

She informed me how much she despises team building activities at camp because she never wants to be touched without her consent. As Sherrie spoke, she opened up about her years of sexual abuse and how difficult it is for her to accept physical contact from others.

Sherrie told me she considered herself to be a Christian, but she didn’t believe God existed. I told her it wasn’t possible to have it both ways…that being a Christian required faith in God. Then she explained that she didn’t believe He existed because He never answered her when she called for help during those years of abuse. I momentarily wondered if I should have somehow better prepared myself to answer this deep theological conundrum. You see, before camp, I found myself worrying I wasn’t spiritually “fit” or “adequate” enough to lead these teens.

I took a breath and told Sherrie that I don’t understand why God doesn’t always rescue us when we ask, but I did know that He had a plan to make something beautiful out of her life if she would let Him. Sherrie became extremely angry at that moment and began to shut me out. I told her I would be praying that God would reveal Himself to her and that she would experience the great peace He has to offer. She responded, “Whatever floats your boat,” and walked away.

Our next activity was chapel. I found Sherrie sitting alone so I sat by her, making sure to give her plenty of space. As chapel went on, she slid a little closer and a closer to me until she was right next to me. Then she held my hand. Then she leaned. Then her head was on my shoulder. Finally, her other hand found its way into the front pocket of my sweatshirt where she clutched tighter and tighter onto the fabric to the point where I’m certain her knuckles were white. I wrapped my arms around her in a big bear hug, rocked her, and told her I loved her.

Sherrie and I stayed in the chapel, and I never let go. I hugged and cried. That was my job. That’s what God put me there for at that very moment. I told her I was so sorry for all the pain she had gone through. She never pulled away once. It reminded me of holding my own girls when they were toddlers.

Later after all the campers had gone home, one of the other counselors told me that Sherrie had shared with her about our time in the chapel where we had held each other so tightly. Sherrie told her that it had meant more to her than I would ever know because she’s never felt that safe around someone, someone who could hold her, listen to her, and love her in her most honest and vulnerable state.

That truly was my job that weekend. Not to be a spiritual encyclopedia, but to be the hands and feet of Christ. To love with Christ’s love. To be available.

We’d like to extend our heartfelt thanks for your support and partnership with TLF, which has made events like this possible. It’s national foster care month, and we want to thank you for supporting us.

Connection

The Power of Connection

The opposite of addiction is not sobriety, but human connection. – Johann Hari

Erika has been at The Launch Pad for almost a year now, and on April 17th we were able to celebrate her two years of sobriety. It hasn’t been an easy road for her, but she was thrilled to be able to rejoice in this huge victory.

This has been something we’ve been able to guide her through as she’s learned how to identify and eliminate triggers, ask for assistance, and maintain a stable community that will assist her stay clean. Erika is just one of our many success stories, and we are so proud of her for everything she has accomplished. We know that it takes a lot of hard work and dedication to stay sober, but Erika has proved that it is possible.

Stable housing has been a crucial component, since it has allowed her to have a secure location to return to when she is stressed or needs to take a breath. She has been required to face up to her responsibilities and accept responsibility at The Launch Pad. She is presently attending Paul Mitchell’s cosmetology program and has just over six months until she graduates. She is energized and driven to obtain her license and begin a career in a salon.

The Launch Pad’s approach with our resident’s is to help them overcome the trauma of their prior wounds, as well as any residual effects, and move forward with healing and quantifiable objectives. Watching our former foster youth thrive is a tremendous gift. We have a team of very dedicated, hardworking and compassionate volunteers who are committed to our residents’ success.

The Launch Pad has been a blessing for Erika, as well as for many other residents who were once homeless and hopeless. We invite you to learn more about what we do and consider partnering with us as a mentor.

The First Step

We often get asked “where do you begin?” when a resident joins the Launch Pad.

And the answer is, we begin, after the initial move in, with a series of foundational steps geared towards real life training.

But it all starts with opening a bank account and learning how to budget.

Transitioning to adulthood and independence is challenging for any teenager, but the transition to life outside of foster care may be even more intimidating for teenagers who have spent their entire lives in the system. The knowledge and skills they need cannot be learned on the spot at the last minute as they exit care. In most cases the preparation needed for the challenges that come are not taught prior to leaving foster care. And this void of life skills training is where we like to start.

Underprivileged youth often pay in money orders and certified checks. At the Launch Pad it is a value to open a bank account and begin to gain access to the technology world as a start to a long process of learning the necessary life skills needed for long term sustainability.

Yessenia, a new resident at the Launch Pad, didn’t even know where to begin because she left foster care without her original birth certificate or social security card. Left to her own devices, she would certainly have faced daunting challenges.

We have come alongside her to help her apply for and obtain the necessary identification to begin the process.

This is why the Launch Pad housing is so essential for young people who have just left foster care, as it allows us to walk beside and assist them in acquiring the knowledge and abilities they require to live as independent adults.

We’re glad to be able to enter into this gap with foster youths such as Yessenia and assist them in getting the support they need to succeed.

Jordon's story

Jordyn’s Story

As I sit with the most amazing little boy in my lap, with the comfort and privilege to know I am secure in all ways, I am content. This security is all the more complete because my son, the most important thing in my life, is safe and thriving.

It fills me with the utmost honor and gratitude to dwell upon the reflections of my life.

Unfortunately, the beginning of my journey was predominately unpleasant. This logic might be mysterious to some, I mean “why would you be so grateful for something you yourself define as ‘unpleasant’” However, it’s not the constant barrage of hardships I’m honored and grateful for, it’s the beauty and rescue that stand out.

It’s the reality that with the unconditional love, guidance, and support of a few angels along the way, I managed to create a beautiful and vivid life with a stable and healthy family.

Let’s take a gaze through the looking glass to an eighteen-year-old me.

At eighteen, I was newly “graduated” from minor foster care. How I got there in the first place is convoluted and graphic, to say the least.

On top of absent parents, neglect and trauma, I found myself on my own and fighting to survive. Kids don’t end up in foster care thousands of miles from where they’re originally from. You can fill in the blanks as you’d like.

I was bouncing from friends’ couches, motels, and rented rooms, trying my best to be successful in college, hold down a job, and find healing from the deep wounding of my childhood and trauma.

By God’s grace, I was put in contact with the gems of humanity that brought me to TLF. In many ways, they saved my life.

Teen Leadership Foundation provided me with stability for the very first time in my life. They gave me a safe home and unfettered access to any and all resources someone in my position could need to recover and succeed. They introduced me to the concept and framework for what “community” looks like and why a good life necessitates its presence.

Thanks in very large part to TLF, I’ve been able to travel to multiple countries, contribute to greater humanity, graduate from a university, secure a wonderful job in the nonprofit sector, get married and have the most gorgeous baby boy.

The women I interacted with at TLF modeled to me what I imagined a good mother would be like. I now get to emulate that love and mutual respect with my own child, finally breaking cycles, and changing the world in my own little way and corner of the world.

-Jordyn

The Impact of Mentoring | Teen Leadership Foundation

The transition to independent living can be challenging, especially for teens who have left foster care—often at the age of 18 with little support and few skills. By the age of 26, 36% of those who ‘aged out’ of foster care have experienced homelessness.
Being male, having run away while in foster care, having been physically or sexually assaulted, experiencing foster-care instability, or displaying signs of mental health difficulties are all examples of risk factors that can lead to homelessness. Access to transitional housing programs for adolescents, assisting youth build financial stability before they leave foster care, and mentorship and support to develop the skills to live independently all aided in preventing homelessness.

We believe prevention is critical. AT TLF, our mission is to improve the lives of at-risk foster teens through our leadership equipping programs. We provide assistance and direction for teens who are on the verge of being “aged out” of the foster care system. Our initiatives give teens avenues into adulthood with a safety net surrounding them.

Getting kids ready for life after high school is essential to our goal of preparing them for what comes next, including adulthood. We want them to be able to take off when they become independent, not flounder back into a life of instability and more trauma.

At the core of Teen Leadership Foundation is a mentoring program that links adult volunteers with foster teens. The aim of the program is to assist these youth in preparing for adulthood by guiding them to finish high school, obtain driver’s licenses, learn parenting skills and budgeting, apply to college, and move them towards vocational training and finding jobs.

A mentor may be the first caring adult in the youth’s life who has shown an interest in him or her. These youth desperately need a sense of belonging. Our mentors have a significant influence on our mentees. They form meaningful relationships, which has a long-lasting impact on kids’ lives.

While the beautiful simplicity of a mentor relationship is often the solution, the absence of a mentor can be detrimental. When we do not intervene early on with loving assistance, the problem becomes more difficult to address and more costly to handle. We can help foster youth get back on track in a timely manner if we can ensure that they constantly receive care and support during a brief window of time.

But we can’t do this without your help. There is a list of both male and female teens waiting to be matched! Many of the youths we serve have been bounced from home to home, and they don’t feel secure or supported. They desperately need a mentor who can be a consistent source of support and encouragement.

If you would like to be part of the solution, please apply at https://teenleadershipfoundation.app.neoncrm.com/np/clients/teenleadershipfoundation/survey.jsp?surveyId=4&

A Priceless Gift

A few times in life, you receive the perfect gift that transcends both the giver and receiver. This Christmas one of our mentors and residents experienced such a life changing moment.

One of our mentor’s gave our Launch Pad resident a weighted blanket as a present, and the results were far beyond what she expected.

Like most of the foster youth we work with, life hadn’t been easy for this resident and her previous trauma kept her from sleeping at night. Even when she finally had a secure place to rest her head, she still struggled with anxiety and insomnia, which left her exhausted and never fully rested.

The weighted blanket changed all this. Finally, she is able to obtain a decent night’s sleep. This has an enormous influence on all of her activities. She is now able to work more hours at school during the winter break and is exercising regularly.

So what is a Weighted Blanket?

A weighted blanket is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a blanket with weight built into it to make it feel heavier than normal items.

Weighted blankets are typically anywhere from 3-25 pounds and can be very helpful for those who may have trouble sleeping or need extra support as far as anxiety goes .

What makes weighted blankets so effective is the deep pressure stimulation (DPS). This form of touch therapy works by applying even, slow and gentle pressure to one’s body.

Weighted blankets offer a combination of something as simple as touch with the added benefit of deep pressure, which can be very helpful for those who may have trouble sleeping or need extra support as far as anxiety goes

Weighted blankets are often used as a therapeutic tool for teens with anxiety, ADHD, Asperger’s Syndrome, PTSD, or autism. Wrapping one around yourself at bedtime can help ease anxious thoughts and promote healthy sleep patterns.

Foster youth who struggle with anxiety and insomnia benefit most from weighted blankets because it simulates the feeling of being hugged, which can improve sleep in some cases.

But why does it work? The tactile stimulation provided by the blanket gives the brain enough sensory information to tell the body that everything is okay. But it doesn’t just stop there, the pressure also induces serotonin production which helps lift moods and induce better sleep!

However, all of these benefits pale in comparison to how much our resident loves her gift. We are so grateful for both the mentor’s thoughtfulness and this gift that keeps on giving.