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.

Trees

Decorating Trees

We continue our gratitude to the men’s ministry at Mariners Church- #MenofMariners, for their annual Christmas tree distribution to our residents at the Launch Pad. Their unselfish gift of service is an inspiration to us all. Residents of our Launch Pad are always grateful for the fresh trees to delight over and decorate with their children.

They add a real sense of Christmas to our homes. The beautiful trees are also a visual reminder that we are not alone, that people do care about us. We are grateful to the Men of Mariners for their thoughtfulness and kindness.

Last Saturday, as the trees were distributed and brought into one of our residences, three-year-old Bella stood with a smile on her face and said “thank you!” Later, while we were unpacking the ornaments, Jasmine, our resident and young mother, informed us with tears in her eyes that she had never been able to decorate a tree with her daughter.

This time of year, is hard for foster youth being separated from family and walking through pain alone. But this Christmas Eve, they have a tree of their own to decorate surrounded by people who care about them.

We once again thank the Men of Mariners and all those community members that support our foster youth in need. When a child is hurting, it’s never too late to let them know they are loved.

– The Launch Pad staff

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!

TLF

Angels Game in Community

The Launch Pad residents were recently given the opportunity to attend an Angels Baseball game. The league has been a long-time financial and in-kind supporter of TLF. It’s these sorts of evenings that allow our residents to unwind, try new things, have fun, and most importantly, be in touch with one another. And we even made the jumbotron!

“I haven’t had this much fun in a long time,” said one resident.

“It was fun to hang out with other residents and just be able to let loose and enjoy myself. I tend to be more serious and am always focused on my worries or things I have to get done. Tonight, was a great chance to just be me and have fun. Thank you!”

These types of outings are important for our residents. They provide an opportunity to get to know one another outside of their normal routines and socialize in a fun, relaxed setting. It’s also a chance for them to see that there is more to life than their current situation and that there are people who care about them.

When you support the Launch pad through TLF’s Annual Campaign, you are supporting the lives of our residents. Be sure to check out our video, where you can learn more about one of our resident’s stories and how she has beat back homelessness. Our goal is to provide housing, support services, and opportunities for enrichment that will help them keep pace with life’s challenges so they can move forward on a brighter path.

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.