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

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

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!