Thankful

Thankful Hearts

On Monday, November 22nd, a few members of Grace Fellowship Church cooked and delivered a complete Thanksgiving dinner to our residents at the Launch Pad. The group went above and beyond by not only preparing all the dishes for a full Thanksgiving celebration but also providing decorations and table settings to make the residents’ turkey day feel extra special. We are deeply appreciative of their generous hearts and desire to serve the at-risk youth we walk alongside.

This dinner was especially meaningful for our residents since they don’t often have the opportunity to spend Thanksgiving with their families. As a result, having supper together provided them the pleasure of sharing a meal and breaking bread with the TLF Launch Pad volunteers and staff.

This activity also assisted them in stepping out of their comfort zones and participating in the community. Our kids frequently eat fast food because it’s quick and inexpensive, but this experience allowed them to slow down and enjoy a delicious holiday meal in a caring family-type environment.

The house was also a gathering place to learn social skills and develop connections with others outside their circle of friends, as well as an opportunity to practice those abilities. It created a safe and secure haven for our residents to enjoy leisure time away from work, school, and other life difficulties they might be facing.

We did a creative art activity with the residents called the “Gratitude Tree.” Each resident created a tree and placed leaves on it, with things they are grateful for. It was great to hear from each resident about what they are thankful for, as well as what is most important to them. This game allowed the residents to form stronger relationships and interact with one another.

We are thankful for the friendships we have forged with Grace Fellowship Church and look forward to continuing to serve alongside them in future outreach deeper opportunities.

Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. -Hebrews 13:16

Loads Filled with Love

A Load Filled with Love

It’s funny how simple things can make such a difference.

Sue and her small group put together a basket during our Loads of Love campaign for one of our new residents at the Launch Pad, who moved in at the beginning of September. The basket they dropped off made its way into the hands of our new resident Daysha, an eighteen-year-old young woman transitioning into independence.

Daysha moved in with minimal personal items. When our staff gave her the basket, filled with toiletries and essentials for moving in, she was very appreciative and shared that it meant a lot to her that we would support her in that way.

Daysha has big dreams and we are excited about helping her achieve them. Daysha is pursuing a program for Culinary School, as she desires to become a chef.  She is currently working with our Program Coordinator to find a part-time job, is learning about how to budget, and is studying to take her Drivers’ Permit test.

Daysha has the most difficulty with establishing healthy boundaries with her family and motivating herself to prioritize her own aspirations over family obligations and desires. She is also overcoming her anxiety of not being able to achieve her objectives through therapy.

We are excited for Daysha! We believe she will accomplish all that she sets out to do. Thank you Sue for your thoughtful gift filled with encouragement!

The Launch Pad is a family-based community-based in Orange County, CA that supports young adults ages 18 to 21 who have been emancipated from foster care, those participating in extended foster care, and those at risk of homelessness. We are much more than simply a safeguard for these youngsters; we provide them with a safe and permanent family while working to assist them to realize their unrealized potential and ambitions.

We provide a wide range of services and assistance that picks up where foster care leaves off. We develop a unique “take-off plan” for each young adult to achieve his or her objectives in life. A variety of support and activities, including budget coaches, tutors, employment and education planning, daily living, exercise, and fitness, is available through our local partners.

Would you like to make someone’s day by giving them something special? Want help picking it out? Contact us at 949-899-8100.

Art Therapy

Art Therapy

A picture is worth a thousand words.

Some of our Launch Pad residents spent a peaceful afternoon working through art therapy for inner exploration. The young women giggled and murmured as they created paintings depicting the joy in their lives.

At our Santa Ana Launch Pad home, the Hanger was an ideal location to spread out and express oneself. Multi-talented Karin of Framewerk Imaging, our own social enterprise, shared his therapeutic training by leading residents in the exercise.

Every one of them, in their own words, stated how much they liked it. The emotional release of drawing, painting, or sculpture can have healing and therapeutic effects for foster youth. These calming methods of working through emotions and expressing oneself can help to understand certain things that talk therapy cannot articulate.

At The Launch Pad, we are much more than simply a guardian for these young people; instead, we work with them to help them realize their untapped potential and ambitions. We provide a variety of services and support that help kids transition into adulthood. A personalized “take-off strategy” is developed to meet each young person’s unique life objectives.

Your kindness and care for our Launch Pad residents has helped make this wonderful creative break and other activities like it possible. Thank you so much for your love and attention to these young women as they begin rebuilding their lives — it is appreciated!

Emily Graduates from High School!

Before Emily came to the Launch Pad, she faced many obstacles while trying to finish her high school diploma. We were so excited to welcome Emily, and her two young children, to the Launch Pad in August of 2020. Like all foster youth who come to the Launch Pad, she was paired with mentors we call her ‘flight crew.’ With the help of her mentors and the TLF staff, Emily was able to continue working on her high school degree and successfully graduated just a few months later in October! This was an important milestone for Emily, showing her that she was able to conquer the circumstances that made finishing high school difficult and graduate!

 

 

In California, foster youth face greater rates of being absent from school, getting suspended, not meeting academic standards, as well as many other difficulties that make it harder for foster youth to obtain their high school diploma. Only 56% of foster youth graduate high school in the normal four-year period, compared to an 85% four-year graduation rate of their peers. After foster youth exit the system, they often have little resources for help and support, making it extremely unlikely they will finish their high school academic career.

 

 

We are so grateful to be able to work with foster youth, like Emily, and help them get the support they need to be able to finish high school and continue on to higher education. Emily’s success is important to her and to us and we are excited to celebrate with her!

Amy’s Story of Hope, Success, and Dreams

Amy’s story is one of hope, success, and dreams. Amy came to Teen Leadership Foundation from Nevada where she was trafficked as a young woman. When she arrived at TLF, she came bearing uncertainty, trepidation, a desire to move forward, and a beautiful four-year-old son.

Amy quickly got settled into the Launch Pad with her son and voiced her dream of becoming a biologist. With her newfound shelter and safety for both her son and herself, she was able to turn her attention to her studies. She worked hard, attending Fullerton College, and was accepted in California State University of Long Beach.

Amy has successfully launched out of the Launch Pad. She’s moved to Long Beach, to a studio with her son, where she will be able to continue to focus on her studies and work towards her goal of being a biologist. This is no small dream, but this young woman has the drive and stamina to achieve it.

The safety provided by TLF and the Launch Pad not only helped Amy to realize a dream and set in motion a plan to succeed, it has also been a place of safety and healing for her son. We were able to provide him with a bed, help him get stabilized in preschool, and provide him with speech therapy, where he has come a long way from having little to no speech when he arrived at the Launch Pad.

Amy’s story is an important story to tell because it shows how stability in housing set her up to dream, and pursue that dream for her and her son. When foster youth turn 18 in California, they lose access to the support systems that have been available to them through the welfare system. Research shows that within 18 months of aging out of the foster care system, 40-50% of youth become homeless. Because housing efficacy is directly related to self-sufficiency, young adults with stable housing will be more likely to stay in school and maintain employment.

The Launch Pad provides stable and safe housing for youth who have formerly experienced the foster care system. Beyond that, we come around these young adults and provide them with personal mentor relationships, workshops to help them build skills to be successful adults, and the support they need to pursue their education dreams, just like Amy was able to.

Because of COVID, we are having to work hard to Bridge the Gap in their education needs that distance learning has created. While stable housing is the first step, we are not stopping there. We are going to provide our residents with dedicated study space, supplemental therapy to address the anxiety of the pandemic and distance learning, computers, printers, money for books, and any other tangible need they may have in order to successfully attend school this semester.

Donate now to our Bridge the Gap fund and don’t miss out on changing the lives of former foster youth.

On Distance Learning for Former Foster Youth

This spring, our academic world changed overwhelmingly as we embraced distance learning. Schools in Orange County closed in March, at first with the hope of reopening after weeks, but it quickly became clear school wouldn’t be returning to normal for the rest of the academic year.

 

The fix for replacing in person lessons was technology. This immediately highlighted socio economic disparities between students in schools. Some students didn’t have access to computers, web cameras, or the internet. And when students weren’t showing up to class, teachers didn’t have a good way of communicating with them. 

 

All students have been negatively impacted by distance learning, but we know that former foster youth are already at a disadvantage in school before distance learning. High school dropout rates are almost three times higher for foster youth, and less than ten percent of former foster youth graduate from college. Because of these realities, many universities, including Orange Coast College, have a dedicated program to wrap around former foster youth to help them navigate college life and all the unique difficulties they are facing because of their past. These programs help in many ways: priority registration for classes, academic counseling, financial aid application assistance, and being a safe place for students to drop in anytime when feeling overwhelmed. 

 

For the fall, Orange Coast College is continuing with distance learning and online classes. Unfortunately, this means that our residents won’t have the same access to the wrap around program. They are all feeling higher levels of anxiety as they try to navigate registering for classes, purchasing books, and making sure they have a space at home where they can attend class without distraction. 

 

TLF is stepping in to bridge the gap in our residents’ education during COVID-19. Our hope is to create a dedicated school space in the common room, provide reliable computers, printers, internet access, help with purchasing books and other academic financial needs, supplement their online learning with dedicated tutors, and encourage a community learning environment we know can be beneficial to their academic careers. 

 

Donate NOW to help us Bridge the Gap in their education needs. 

Beauty Day

A few weeks ago we decided to officially inaugurate Beauty Day at the Launch Pad. We decided that on this day, an otherwise ordinary day, we were going to honor our residents with a fun afternoon of pampering and self-care simply because.

Some of our incredible volunteers came and gave haircuts, facials, and manicures while others cooked a home cooked meal.

Marlene, one of our residents, experienced a particularly powerful moment when she decided to cut her hair.

“Ever since I was a little girl my hair has always served as my security blanket. For many years, I have carried anxiety. My hair defined me… but today, I decided it was time for a change. No longer was I going to be tied down. My real power rests in my mind and heart, not just on top of my head. So I literally decided to let it go. At first, it was difficult to look past it but I did it. And that to me, was a special moment that I continue to replay over and over again. I don’t regret it. In fact, I’ve decided to donate my hair as long as it continues to grow.”

These are the kinds of stories we live for at The Launch Pad. We value our family and all of our volunteers that contribute to the work that we do. We’d like to thank everyone who made Beauty Day happen. We couldn’t have done it without you!

If you’d like to get involved at a future Launch Pad event, please click here.

Reunited And It Feels So Good

It’s been nearly a year since Lori joined us. Before she showed up, she had lost two of her oldest children to foster care due to domestic violence in her home. She had come to The Launch Pad near the end of her rope, carrying only her 10-month old and the determination to win back the rest of her family.

Through months of hard work, resilience, and the support of our team, Lori was able to complete all the necessary life-skill classes she needed to gain back custody.

We are thrilled to report that Lori and her children have officially been reunited. This strong and spunky family is thriving with Lori balancing both a full-time job and online night school. Her parenting skills have grown tremendously thanks to her Launch Pad volunteer parent coach and she’s now working towards her driver’s license and managing her budget.

Help us continue to empower Lori and dozens of families like her. When you support TLF, your contribution creates a groundswell that helps lift an entire generation farther than they ever thought imaginable.

The Art of Healing

This past February, our Launch Pad ladies were treated to a fun and healing Galentines Day event because of our community partners. The crew had a blast creating freestyle healing art which gave each woman the ability to express deep emotions and talk openly about their feelings… a crucial skill rarely practiced before entering our safe haven.

“I never realized painting or drawing could help me understand things about myself and my journey until today,” one resident said. “This Valentine’s Day I’m learning to love me.”

Thanks to you, it’s our privilege to pour into the lives of these incredible woman helping them understand the full breadth of their value, often for the very first time.

Through the Lens of Abundance not Scarcity

As the end of the year 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 be the interpreter in my life.

As I began to take hold of my narrative, I saw a multitude 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, and so much so that when they no longer saw my “need” that 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 my life through the lens of scarcity. As a foster youth many of us are born into the mentality of having our worlds defined for us that 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 stand still to even accomplish the basic life skills, parenting, and most importantly the act of giving love. When I looked around however, I saw this “mental illness” abundant in other people from completely different situations or circumstances. It was then I decided that I was going to allow Love to win. Each family that said yes to provide for me was a winner in my story, a champion to my cause, for my living was the source for their reasons, it was the results that mattered most. The results that I am a healthy 29 year old, college graduate, who is living independently, that I seek to have a family, and hope to be a foster parent myself someday.

At 29, 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 feel so strongly to partner in any way possible with this community. As the year 2020 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 of foster youth will look back unlike the generations before and say, LOVE WINS!

–  Foster Youth Alumni, Entrepreneur and  Speaker

“I will not leave you orphaned”- Jesus Christ