TLF

THE LENS OF ABUNDANCE

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 as an alumnus of the Launch Pad and am truly grateful.

There was a time in my life when I believed myself to be a “charity case”. The only reason I could see anyone helping me out during my life was to satisfy their own need. 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.

I decided 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. It was then I decided I would allow Love to win. Each person that said yes to providing 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 result is that I am a healthy college graduate living independently, and I hope to be a foster parent someday.

-Angie

Picture This:

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 at risk youth with foundational steps is crucial to their future success. The Network  courses are designed to give them the preventative resources they need to make a successful transition into adulthood.

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.

Picture this:

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 through The Network, 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 “employment readiness 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.  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 at risk youth to learn the skills they need to be successful in the workforce. Join us as we expand!

 

Filling the Gap: Loads of Love

“It is an absolute human certainty that no one can know his own beauty or perceive a sense of his own worth until it has been reflected back to him in the mirror of another loving, caring human being.”
― John Joseph Powell

When foster youths struggle to survive, personal hygiene is often not a priority. Many of these young people lack access to regular showers, clean clothes, or even a toothbrush.

Without access to these basic necessities, foster youths are at a disadvantage when competing for jobs or attending school. They may be embarrassed and ashamed of their appearance, which can lead to low self-esteem.

Many residents come to The Launch Pad with only the bare necessities in terms of daily hygiene products. When working under very tight financial constraints they might not think about hygiene items when they go shopping at the store.

Loads of Love steps in to fill this gap. We load a basket with hygiene products and place it in each resident’s room when they move into The Launch Pad so that they feel loved and taken care of. Often, this means providing shampoo, conditioner, bath soaps, towels, and other washing materials. This also opens the door for teaching our residents about basic hygiene habits – skills that many of them lack when they first move to The Launch Pad.

Maintaining good personal hygiene helps to develop positive self-esteem.  It also sends the message to potential employers that you are presentable and capable of taking care of yourself. For many of our residents, this is the first time they have had access to regular showers, clean clothes, and other basic hygiene products.

The Launch Pad is committed to providing a safe and nurturing environment for all of our residents. We also provide laundry detergent, fabric softener, and other related items so that they can do their own laundry. This not only helps to keep them clean but also teaches them an important life skill.

Thanks to the wonderful donations from Loads of Love, we are also able to keep a supply of these goods in our donation closets for our residents’ use and on a broader scale, to send out to foster youth in need.

So, grab your small groups, family, etc and bring on over some loads of love!

Email kaitlin@teenleadershipfoundation.org now to arrange drop off.

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

 

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.

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&

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