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FALL 2017 | ISSUE 7

STARTING NOW W e 'v e m o v e d ! Read all about our beautiful new space in this issue 221 N. Ardmore Ave. Los Angel es, CA 90004

Als o in t his is s u e : - Q & A w it h our Adopt ion Supervisor - $31 Million added to St ate Budget for Child Care - Hear from Former Foster Yout h, Dominque Ross Page

Ext raordinar yFamilies

A Magazine of Extraordinary Families

Cont ent s 3

EXCITING NEWS Extraordinary Families has Moved!



Children and Youth in Foster Care: Meet Dominique Ross


Q& A

IN FOCUS Welcome to our New Director of Operations, Robert Ortiz, Jr.

ACTION ALERT Emergency Child Care Bridge Program

A Conversation with Adoptions Supervisor, Jill Rosenberg




EXTRAORDINARY FAMILIES Meet Linda Kennedy and Kirsten Schaffer

Follow us and st ay inf ormed! www.ext raordinar yf

Ext raordinar yFamilies | Fall 20 17


Excit ing News We've m oved!

office and visitation rooms, sparse parking, and outdated features of our old space. At our new location, we are the sole occupants of the spacious building, which features, among many things: - a large room for resource family orientation, training, and continuing education classes; - a dedicated computer lab and workspace for our growing UP4Youth program; - a resource parent waiting room;

- a large meeting/ Board room;

We are thrilled to announce that we

- a private lot with ample, on-site free parking;

have relocated to an upgraded, spacious, and altogether ideal office space! After a diligent search, we found the perfect fit for our expanded programs and activities. Our new address is: 221 N. Ardmore Ave., Los Angel es, Cal if ornia 90004. Our phone number remains the same at (213) 365-2900.

- and the Howard Kaufman Visitation Center, which includes five family rooms with age-specific toys and furnishings.

Our new building is conveniently located in the same neighborhood, just a short 1.5 miles to the west on Beverly. The new facility provides a variety of improvements and superior overall accommodations that will help us better serve our children, youth, and families. This is the first-ever move for the agency, who opened its doors in 1994 under the leadership of Sylvia Fogelman. As we continue providing the highest quality services to those in our care, we honor Sylvia and Extraordinary Families' founder Andrew Bridge with the vision that children and youth in foster care are given the same opportunities all children deserve. We've grown, improved, and expanded over the years, and with that growth, ultimately outgrew our limited Ext raordinar yFamilies | Fall 20 17

We are deeply grateful to the Kaufman family, Ahmanson Foundation and the W.M. Keck Foundation, whose generous support made our move and these essential upgrades possible. We are thrilled to begin this new chapter in our work with you, and hope you are able to join us at one of our two open house events described on the following page. Sarah Boone, CEO


Excit ing News We've m oved!

Join us f or an Op en House! For our Ex traordi nary Fami l i es & Youth Saturday, October 14 2pm - 5pm 221 N.A rdmore A v e. Los A ngel es, CA 90004

For our Partners, Fri ends, and Supporters Wednesday, October 25 4pm - 7pm 221 N.A rdmore A v e. Los A ngel es, CA 90004

A special celebr at ion for our cur rent , past , and f ut ure resour ce parent s, and our UP4Yout h par t icipant s and m ent or s. Br ing t he w hole f am ily for f un, food, gam es, and t our s!

Please join us for an evening ex plor ing our new space, lear ning about our progr am s and ser vices, and t he w or k y ou help m ake possible.

Please RSVPby October 10

Please RSVPby October 16

Please RSVP t o Mar t a at m .valle@ex t r aor dinar y f am ilies.or g, or sim ply call us at our sam e t elephone num ber (213) 365-2900.

We look f or w ar d t o seeing y ou!

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AConversationwithJill Rosenberg Q & A AdoptionSupervisor

Q: How did you come t o work in f ost er care and adopt ion, and what keeps you working in t he f iel d? A: Ever since I started babysitting as a young adolescent, I have had an immense passion for working with children and teens. Being very focused in college, I pursued a Bachelors degree in psychology from the University of California, Santa Barbara. I started my career in special education, and was drawn to the idea that I could make an impact helping children and teens through prevention. After receiving my Masters degree in social work from the University of Southern California, I focused on abuse prevention outreach and education, working in high schools all over Los Angeles County as well as crisis intervention with abuse victims in the emergency room. While doing some work in a mentoring program, I naturally gravitated to working with families and children in foster care and adoption, first as a caseworker, then as an administrator. This work become the most meaningful to me over the years and continued to resonate with me as I became a parent myself. Foster care and adoption has

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been my true passion for over 15 years now. What keeps me in this field through thick and thin is experiencing successful reunifications and joyous adoptions, and helping to bridge the beautiful relationships that are often built between foster/ adoptive parents and birth families. What is more wonderful than children being loved and adored by many parents? It?s these happy moments that continue to drive my passion. Q: What is your vision f or your rol e as adopt ions supervisor? A: With the strength of this amazing team of professionals, I wish to add to the support that we already provide families and the children for whom they care. In the adoption program, we do a lot of work at the beginning, guiding families through the process of becoming approved as resource parents. We may then rejoin the process at the end, when families engage in the legal process of adoption. I hope to continue to ensure that parents and children are receiving support and advocacy on a 24/ 7 basis in order to help families strengthen and thrive. Currently focusing on the many important changes being driven by the Continuum of Care Reform, I see my role as assisting to educate

parents and to prepare them for this wonderful and, at times, challenging journey in providing a child in need with a home and a family, whether temporarily, or forever. I also have an ambition to help families prepare to embrace the birth families and individuality of the children they parent in order to support the identity of the whole child. Q: In your opinion, what is t he import ance of f ost ering? A: Every child deserves to grow up in a safe, secure, and loving environment. Unfortunately for many children in child welfare, their home lives are chaotic and unstable, sometimes even outright dangerous. On any given day in Los Angeles, there are countless children in need of emergency care with no place to go. The need for loving homes is critical. The most beautiful gift a family can give is to open their hearts and homes to a child in need. Finding families who are willing and able to be a resource for children, even if for a short time, is critical. Our goal is to find families who believe ?I want to make a difference in the life of a child?. This is what fostering is, making all the difference in the world.


Welcometoour newDirector of Operations In Focus

Robert Ortiz,Jr. Please welcome our new Director of Operations, Robert Ortiz, Jr. Bobby joins us after having served as the Foundations Director for the Salvation Army in Long Beach, the Assistant Director of Program Development for the Volunteers of America Los Angeles, and the Community Development Director for the United States Veterans Initiative, bringing with him over 10 years of nonprofit experience. Deeply motivated by Extraordinary Families' mission to improve the lives of children, youth, and families

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in child welfare, Bobby is excited to help advance the agency in achieving its goals. This includes in operations management, finance, and facilities oversight, and supporting staff to ensure efficient and effective service delivery across the organization. He looks forward to leading the agency in achieving accreditation, a feat that will ensure continuous quality assurance and improvement. With a Master of Business Administration from the University of Redlands, and a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University at Albany, State University of New York, Bobby adds exceptional qualifications to our extraordinary team. Additionally, he served in the U.S. Army in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom (?06-'07). We are thrilled to have Bobby join Extraordinary Families, and help us advance our mission in this next chapter at our new location.


DominiqueRoss Staying strong isn?t always easy but making sure you have the right people around you who love and support you is important. - Dominique Ross


Dominique Ross had been in foster care since birth, but was fortunate to have the benefit of relative care with his maternal aunt. He recalled his childhood with fondness, having been surrounded by love and treated no different by his aunt than one of her birth children. Starting at a young age, however, he struggled with his sexual identity and was frequently teased by other children because of the sound of his voice or the clothes he chose to wear. He reacted to the taunting with aggression, frequently fighting with classmates and struggling to interact appropriately with school staff. In middle school, he was ultimately expelled as a result, and went to a private school. By his junior year of high school, he earned the opportunity to go back to public school, which also returned to him a sense of normalcy: attending school football games, the prom, and taking choir lessons. Following graduation, he entered into transitional living for foster youth but experienced a series of challenges, including being robbed of all of his belongings by a roommate, and a brief but failed attempt to live with his mother again. Knowing he needed safe and stable housing, he sought out, and entered into a housing program for foster youth and began to thrive. Even so, he continued to feel that he "needed a new atmosphere of help" where he felt accepted and not judged. After speaking up about his concerns, he was referred to Extraordinary Families' UP4Youth program for support, guidance, and assistance. Dominique was immediately matched with a mentor, who also identifies as LGBTQ and has been helping Dominique navigate his own transition to adulthood, serving as an empathetic sounding board, offering guidance, and connection to the larger LBGTQ community. Dominique shared his mentor has helped him set personal goals and is simply there for him whenever he needs advice or someone to talk to. Since joining the program, Dominique has proven to be an obvious leader among our youth and young adults. He?s a ?go-getter,? according to UP4Youth Program Manager, Isaac Casas,

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M ak ing A Dif f erence


adding, ?whatever he wants to do, he goes out there and accomplishes it. He?s definitely going to succeed.? Dominique?s true passion in life is photography, and he hopes to one day become a professional photographer for celebrities and events. On his own accord and with perseverance, he earned a position to serve as one of the photographers at the most recent BET Awards. Dominique shared that since starting photography five years ago, he has been a strong self-advocate, pushing himself forward into this career. Any challenges that come his way, he overcomes with the support of family, friends, his mentor, and Extraordinary Families. Dominique takes full advantage of everything the UP4Youth program has to offer, from assistance with employment opportunities and building life skills, to working with his mentor and reaching the benchmarks in his Individual Success Plan. We are honored to be a part of his life journey, and privileged to support and encourage his accomplishments. For other youth and young adults in foster care, Dominique would like to remind them that "you are not victims ? everything you have seen, been told, and experienced only makes you survivors."

UP4Youth serves current and former foster youth ages 16-26 with education, employment, resource coordination, and mentoring. For more information, contact Isaac Casas, program manager, at 213-365-2900 or Dominique at the Extraordinary Families Gala April 26, 2017

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Act ion Alert

for ChildCare Child care

is often one of the greatest

challenges for resource parents in California, a factor many believe hinders efforts to recruit and retain enough families for children in the state?s foster care system. According to, child care in California can cost around $1,100 per month, which places a significant financial stress on families and can make it challenging to balance work and home life. Although children in foster care are eligible for state child care subsidies, there is a timing gap: children entering the system often need immediate access to child care in order for their new resource families to care for them while working out of the home, but child care programs typically operate at full capacity with enrollment windows that rarely align with each child?s placement. This past June, however, Governor Jerry Brown signed the California 2017-18 budget, which includes setting aside $31 million to support the new Emergency Child Care Bridge program. Developed over the course of two years, this program will specifically increase access to immediate child care for children in foster care between the ages of 0 to 5 by providing resource families with vouchers to purchase child care for the

first six months a child is placed in their home, effectively "bridging" the child care timing gap. The program will also offer trauma-informed training for child care providers and a child care navigator to assist resource families in not only finding affordable childcare upfront but also continuing to work with families to transition or stabilize the child into a long-term, high quality child development setting. Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, an instrumental figure forging the program and the accompanying policy reform enabling its completion, shared the following statement on her website: ?We?ve been pursuing this program for two years and I am excited that Governor Brown made the decision to sign the Child Care Bridge Program into law. Child care is one of the biggest barriers faced by foster parents and with the passage of this program I am confident we can help these hardworking families who are committed to helping children in our foster system." We share in Supervisor Kuehl's enthusiasm for this program and hope it can help alleviate the financial burdens that can face resource families while fostering a young child, thereby allowing us to recruit and retain more qualified families to care for our most vulnerable children. We will continue to follow the development and roll out of this program and keep you informed.

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M ak ing A Our Dif fExt erence raordinar y Families Early on

People often say that Masi is lucky to have us as a family, but we feel like the lucky ones. - Linda Kennedy

in their journey t o building a family

together, Linda Kennedy and Kirsten Schaffer attended an orientation with another agency at a local LGBTQ Center, but were disappointed to find it less than queer-friendly. They decided to change directions and grow their family with a birth child. After having their first daughter, Olive, they soon realized they had so much more love to give. By that time, they had many friends who had fostered and adopted through Extraordinary Families and decided to attend an orientation. "It was a totally different experience," said Linda. "We felt like we were joining a supportive community." Not long after their certification, they met six-month old Messiah, who is lovingly known by the nickname Masi. "(She) brought incredible joy into our home the moment she arrived," the couple shared. "We fell instantly in love." But the beginning was hard. The couple explained Masi cried every night for hours. They later learned she suffered from milk intolerance and chronic ear infections, but her sleep disturbances continued for some time thereafter. "Linda and Kirsten literally haven't had a good night's sleep for almost two years," shared Eileen Lopez, the couple's foster care social worker. Eileen added, "but they remained optimistic and supportive the entire time - they're really amazing. Messiah has made remarkable progress with Linda and Kristen's nurturing and love." "We were sleep-deprived," shared the couple. "And on top of that, we carried the weight of not knowing if she?d be with us forever." Throughout Masi's journey, the family had 10 Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) social workers, four lawyers, five doctors, and made seven trips to family court. But the social workers at both DCFS and Extraordinary Families were "knowledgeable and engaged," said Linda ? and "we also met

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M ak ing A Our Dif fExt erence raordinar y Families dozens and dozens of incredible foster families including the totally inspiring family that Masi?s half-sister lives with." Masi's sister has been in the system for the past ten years and is now finally about to be adopted. Recognizing the importance of birth family connections, Kirsten and Linda are working towards fostering a relationship between the siblings and are excited about facilitating this. Another significant part of the couple's experience is having an inter-racial family. "We thought we had good awareness of race issues and that our friend circle, cultural experiences were inclusive," shared Kirsten. "But once Masi came to live with us and we started to think about what she sees around her ? we realized that we needed to make some major changes. No matter how much we love her, she will most likely feel 'different' in our family, so it is our job to mitigate that. We make a greater effort to spend time in communities of color, and we have added more art, photos and stories by and about people of color to our home, our bookshelves, our iPad - everywhere." Overall, "Masi is exuberant," shared the couple. "So full of joy and affection." She catches on fast, too ? to language, lyrics, and is incredibly athletic and adventurous, and a tad bit mischievous, too. "She wants to do everything her seven year-old sister does ? and she does!" Linda added, "I know everything about my biological child?s history; I look at her body and I see my seven year-old body, gangly and clumsy. With Masi, there are so many surprises ? how tall she?ll be, if she?ll have allergies, what her voice will sound like. Of course every child unfolds as they grow, but with a foster child there is something extra special about being a part of this growth." For others interested in fostering, Linda offered the following advice: "Go in knowing the best thing for this baby is to be reunited with a healthy birth parent, and in the journey the baby needs all the love you can possibly give. That was the the hardest part, hands down ? loving this beautiful human, and knowing it was possible she would Ext raordinar yFamilies | Fall 20 17

Masi (right) with her older sister, Olive

leave us. But that's what we do when we choose foster to's not easy but it's beautiful and rewarding and we would not change a thing." Masi, Olive, Kristen, and Linda became a forever family in September.

Don't forget

Sat ur day , Oct . 14 - 2-5PM OURFAMILIES, YOUTH, & MENTORS

Wednesday , Oct . 25 - 4-7PM FRIENDS, PARTNERS, SUPPORTERS

To RSVP call (213) 365-2900 or em ail m .valle@ex t r aor dinar y f am ilies.or g

RSVP for an open house! 11

BOARD OF DIRECTORS Juliet Musso Flournoy Professor of State Government, USC Sol Price School of Public Policy Chair Sean Reese Area Director, Charter/Spectrum Communications Secret ary Dawn Bridges Director of Information Technology, KTGY Treasurer Sarah Boone, MSW Chief Execut ive Of f icer Rick Bieber Principal, MiNDS i CiNEMA, Angel City Pictures Leonardo Bolanos Vice President, Private Banker, City National Bank Angela Bromstad Consultant, Discovery Communications Emily Brown Associate, Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP Lisa Clark Business and Information Technology Expert Roy Firestone Vice President of Product ,

The mission of Extraordinary Families isto transform the daily livesof children and families in child welfare with innovative strategiesand visionary policy reforms. Support our mission. Make a Donat ion Today!

Lucas Grindley President, Pride Media; Editor in Chief, The Advocate Brooke Halsband Associate, Hilton & Hyland Lisa Jordan President, Human Solutions Lisa Kring, LCSW Instructor, Insight LA Francesca Orsi Executive Vice President & Co-Head of Drama Series, HBO Shauna Shalom Vice President, Relationship Manager, Boston Private Bank & Trust Jocelyn Tetel Vice President, Advancement , Skirball Cultural Center

221 N. Ardmore Ave. Los Angel es, CA 90004

Steve Vai Musician, Philanthropist Rosanne Ziering Entrepreneur, Activist, and Philanthropist

Ext raordinar yFamilies | Fall 20 17

Thank you for your support!12

Profile for ExtraordinaryFamilies

Starting Now - Fall 2017  

A magazine of Extraordinary Families

Starting Now - Fall 2017  

A magazine of Extraordinary Families