By Dominique “Domy” Raymond, Senior Program Director, USA Funds
A visit with the Children Youth and Family Collaborative (CYFC) was a highlight in a recent trip to Los Angeles filled with informative and memorable experiences focused on streamlining key education transitions.
I took part in activities including the Starbucks 100,000 Opportunities Job Fair — check out my tweets @DomyRaymond and @USAFundsOrg — and presentations to USA Funds® trustees from Starbucks and LeadersUp.
During the site visit at CYFC, I met with an amazing team whose mission is advancing the educational well-being and positive post-emancipation outcomes of foster youth.
CYFC’s work addresses a great need. According to the U.S. Children’s Bureau, there are over 402,000 children in foster care across the country, with nearly 35,000 having open cases in the Los Angeles area, our nation’s largest foster care population.
Some 1,300 foster youth are emancipated from Los Angeles County’s foster care system each year.
Lydia Cincore Templeton, CYFC’s founder, is an attorney. After she and her husband returned to the United States from a five-year humanitarian mission in Rwanda, she decided that someone had to speak up for foster care youth. Since being established in 1993, CYFC has served over 20,000 students; both Lydia and the organization have been widely lauded for their accomplishments.
USA Funds’ investment in CYFC specifically focuses on the organization’s Academic, Remediation, Intervention, and Support Services Education (A.R.I.S.S.E.) program, a college and career pathways project.
CYFC’s footprint is in 22 high schools in southern Los Angeles and the surrounding counties. CYFC’s model of success relies on a full-time youth education specialist (affectionately called a “YES”) who works on school grounds to develop individualized service plans for participating foster care students. The service plan tailors the academic intervention for each student to address:
- Academic remediation.
- Student support services.
- College access and completion.
- Workforce readiness.
For my site visit, I met Lydia at CYFC’s office, housed in a 20th century bungalow in south LA, a few blocks from the University of Southern California. We then headed to Pomona High School, about an hour away, to meet with some students and Pomona’s YES, Joseph Alvarado. We also met with Pomona Unified School District Superintendent Richard Martinez. CYFC, the high school and the district office are a great example of successful collaboration.
What became clear to me is that, as challenging as high school is for most students, it’s especially challenging for foster care students.
As Lydia and I engaged in conversations with students, we witnessed what the investment in this effort is really all about: CYFC’s work is helping each student make informed choices, both big and small — whether it’s about selecting a college or why you should resist skipping a class. Whereas many of us have some simple daily decisions to make — what’s for lunch? — at-risk students face multiple difficult decisions every single day.
Watching CYFC’s students essentially think everything through from a cost-benefit perspective was rewarding. As one student put it: “I don’t want to ruin my future.”
Kudos to CYFC’s outstanding team of staffers, volunteers and YESes, who all serve a de facto coordinating role with school districts for keeping LA’s foster care students from slipping through the cracks and ushering them to a bright future.