PRLog - Aug. 25, 2011 - SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA, Calif. -- (SAN FRANCISCO.) – Prior to last year’s passage of AB12, the California Fostering Connections Success Act, foster care for most California youth came to an abrupt end at age 18. Ready or not, about 5,000 foster youths “age out” of the state’s child welfare system each year.
Foster- Family- Services
AB12 provides critical funding that allows youth to stay in foster care until age 21; building an important bridge between traditional foster care and adult independence. Research shows that without transitional foster care programs, foster youths who age out of foster care have lower educational achievement and are more likely to experience homelessness, unemployment, unplanned pregnancies, drug use and involvement in the legal system.
Aspiranet, one of the state’s largest and most innovative providers of child, teen, family and transitional foster care programs, knows that extending services to teens while they transition to adulthood is a win - win for California. The agency is dedicated to both finding families that are willing to open their hearts and homes to foster teens as well as providing foster youth with a continuum of services as they exit the foster care system.
Aspiranet’s THP Plus (Transitional Housing Program) program provides a safe living environment for youth 18 – 24 while teaching them life skills to help them become self-sufficient. In addition, Aspiranet works with emancipated youth, pairing them with mentor families as well providing job placement assistance, educational advocacy and emotional counseling services.
“When I emancipated from foster care at 18, I became instantly homeless,” said Richard Lazaro Alonso, 23. “I had no way to support myself, dropped out of school, found myself sleeping in public parks and struggled to survive.”
After a year on the streets, a social worker introduced Alonzo to THP-Plus and his life began to improve. “THP-Plus was a turning point for me,” said Alonso. “My host parent, who I call “Mom,” provided me with love, encouragement and a permanent family connection. At the same time, THP-Plus helped me with finances, job assistance and counseling allowing me to work towards my goal of obtaining a college degree.”
Jeannie Imelio, Aspiranet’s central valley regional director, sees on a daily basis the positive benefits that go hand-in-hand with transitional foster care. Imelio, who has spent most of her career working with foster youth, credits AB 12 and transitional care programs with saving many young lives.
“Research shows that pairing youth with supportive adults as they navigate through their teenage years as well as when they exit from traditional foster care leads to much greater success in life,” said Imelio. “We have a huge need to find more families to foster teens as well as to mentor them as they prepare for independent living. Eighteen is far too young for most young people to make it on their own.”
Alonzo, who will graduate from Cal State Fresno next year, credits THP Plus and his host parent, Maria, for turning his life around. “I lived in 12 different foster homes as a kid,” said Alonso. “Maria provided me with a stable place to live and a constant loving influence.”
While attending college, Alonso was hired as a case manager / life coach at Aspiranet and today uses his own life experiences to help other foster youth that are transitioning to adulthood. “Words can be empowering to youth,” said Alonso. “I went through many of the same experiences as the young people I work with. It is rewarding to see them succeed and know that my influence contributes to their success.”
Aspiranet is actively recruiting foster and mentor parents for foster youth, seeking business support in the form of job opportunities for youth and collecting donations in the following communities where it offers THP-Plus programming:
To find out more about fostering a teen and transitional foster care, call 1-877-350-HERO, go to www.aspiranetheroes.org or click here to watch a short 3 minute THP-Plus video: http://www.vimeo.com/
Aspiranet, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) charity, supports foster children, siblings, families, and the community with 35 core programs offering specialized services through 44 satellite centers within California.
Founded 35 years ago as a six-bed group home for young boys in Moss Beach, Calif., Aspiranet is one of the most diverse nonprofit social service agencies in the state. With a statewide network of innovative services, Aspiranet has touched the lives of over 10,000 families and children since its founding.
Aspiranet’s vision of bringing families together and helping foster children, siblings, and parents thrive is realized through six areas of expertise – Family Services, Foster Care, Adoption, Education, Afterschool programs, and Community Partnerships. For more information, please visit www.aspiranet.org.
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