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Issue 9 | Summer | 2018



Building Relationships Mentors Matter Champion of Pride





Q&A A Conversation with Director of Programs, Kayla Wright


Get Involved



Building Relationships


MAKING A DIFFERENCE EXCITING NEWS Champion of Pride, New Location, and more


VOICES Our Extraordinary Youth






A Conversat ion wit h Kayla W right Direct or of Programs

Q: W hat brought you t o t he field of child welfare? A: My mother and her nine siblings were raised in foster care, and I grew up hearing stories about the neglect they experienced and how my mother was made to move out of her foster home when she was 18. It was these stories that motivated me to help make a difference in the lives of other children in foster care. I have worked in the child welfare field for over 15 years. I started out as a marriage and family therapist intern, counseling children, families, and couples. After completing my internship, I provided therapy for clients of victims of crime, which allowed me to work collaboratively with families involved in the child welfare system, providing weekly therapy during and after the reunification process. I then took a position at a local foster family agency, where I remained for over seven years, first as a social worker, and then as a social work supervisor, administrator, and director.

programs, along with a stable home environment, were all key to the success of their transition into adulthood. As my journey serving children and families continues with my new position as Extraordinary Families Director of Programs, so does my journey in learning more about the needs of children and youth in foster care and how we can best support them. Q: W hat are you most looking forward t o in your new posit ion? A: I'm really excited to work with our incredible team of social workers and program staff to recruit more resource parents introduce them to the joys of fostering. We're working on new strategies to expand and diversify our pool of resource families so we can serve more children and youth in need. While babies and toddlers make up the highest percentage of children coming into foster care on any given day, it's youth and teenagers who stay in the longest,

I'm also really looking forward working with UP4Youth staff to grow the program and bring on more businesses we can partner with to expose our youth to career pathways through internships and job shadow opportunities, as well as direct job placements. Q: W hat wisdom can you offer parent s considering fost ering? A: There is great reward in fostering: as a resource parent, you can improve the life of a child by providing a trusting, loving, and nurturing home, either permanently or until they can safely reunify with their biological family. It can be challenging, but I have never heard a parent say they regretted the decision to help a child.


While working for the agency, I pursued my doctorate in Educational Leadership and Change, and wrote my dissertation on the barriers youth in foster care face when entering 2 or 4 year colleges and how they overcome those barriers. From this work, I learned that the support youth received from their biological families, resource parents, school districts and community support


and often never find that forever home, love, and support that all children deserve. The agency has set an intention around recruiting more families to care for these older kids, and I am eager to help lead the efforts towards achieving this goal.



Building Relat ionships

Many families choose to foster motivated by a desire to make a difference in the life of a child. This motivation,can sometimes be influenced by the idea that children need to be rescued from their families of origin. True, there are significant issues that lead to children being removed from their parents. True, there are times these issues are so great that children cannot return to them. However, with the right support, families can and do heal and thrive, and this is the ultimate and most optimal outcome for children. Rather than rescuing children, the greatest impact resource parents can have in the life of a child is by working with children's parents to help them heal and rebuild their family. A teaming approach between resource parents and birth parents can reduce a child?s anxiety about separation, preventing the stress of divided loyalties for children between their parents and resource parents, helping parents feel less threatened and instead more supported by resource parents, allowing for smoother visitation between children and their families, and allowing for better quality of care overall with the exchange of information about children between the parents and resource parents.

significant loss, the parents go through their own grief cycle until they can hopefully reach a period of acceptance or adjustment when true healing can begin. How you treat and respond to the parents can greatly impact their movement through this cycle. When communicating with parents, strive to be professional and objective but also empathetic and nurturing. Actively listen to their concerns and answer their questions as honestly and openly as possible, treating them with the utmost integrity, kindness, and respect. This type of interaction reassures the children, who are always watching, that you care for their family. Interaction can begin slowly, perhaps with the exchange of notes before engaging in phone calls and then face-to-face meetings. Remember, however, the steps to interaction are often case-by-case, moment-to-moment decisions that should be made in close partnership with the case worker, parents, and resource parents.

To form successful relationships with parents, here are some simple but important things resource parents can do: 1. Speak honorably of t he children?s parent s and never vilify t hem. Always keep dialog about children's parents respectful and positive. Set aside any frustrations you may have, refrain from judgment, and do your best to empathize with and have compassion for the parents. The family dynamics that lead to the maltreatment of children are often very complex and rarely stem from one cause. Many parents were subject to maltreatment as children, too, and may have parented in the only manner they knew how.

3. Be humble. Let the parents be the experts of their children. You can say to them, for instance: ?You know your child better than anyone. How would you like me to care for your daughter while she's with me?? Ask them about their children?s schedules, food preferences, and other likes and dislikes.

2. Don't ignore or avoid t he parent s. Make a concert ed effort t o int eract wit h t hem. Parents often respond to the removal of their children with anger and may blame others for the situation rather than assume any responsibility. Do not let their anger stop your compassion. Their anger and deflection of responsibility may be expressions of grief and coping mechanisms to deal with the despair of losing their children. As with any


4. Help preserve t he relat ionship bet ween children and t heir parent s beyond st andard visit at ion. This is perhaps the most vital piece to successful reunifications, and there are many things you can do to promote and preserve the bond between children and their parents:



Building Relat ionships help develop creative visitation plans in which parents can learn and practice successful parenting skills and are involved in as many aspects of the child?s daily life as safely as possible. No matter what, though, always ensure that the child?s case worker is fully aware and approves of any and all interaction plans before initiating them with birth families.

keep journals on, and take pictures of, the activities of the children and share them with the parents; display pictures of the child's family in their room and in the home; save notes, schoolwork, art projects, etc. for the parents; assist and encourage the parents and their child to work on a life book together; include birth family members in school activities, such as conferences, parents?nights, and athletic events, as well as medical and dental appointments; and if possible, allow family interactions to take place in the resource home and involve the parents in normal child care tasks, such as bathing, feeding, reading stories, or tucking into bed at night. Perhaps more than anything, parents need opportunities to parent and/or learn to parent their children - and to do so in as normal of an environment as possible. Discuss with your case worker how you can


As safety permits, children belong with their families. Resource parents are vital to the reunification process, not just in caring for children but in caring for the family as a whole. When resource parents are able to set aside fears or judgments they may have about parents and work hard to develop positive relationships, everyone involved benefits, especially and most importantly the children.



Our Ext raordinary Yout h We might not have had the best upbringing but we won?t allow that to determine our lives. We are resilient and striving to be successful. AlexissValle UP4Youth Participant

Join us for Orientation

Make a difference and foster

July 14th, 9:30am - 12:00pm

RSVP with Drew at 213-365-2900 or EXTRAORDINARY FAMILIES | SUMMER SPRING 2018 2018



Our Ext raordinary Yout h

We are so proud to introduce you to Iliana, an extraordinary young woman and current Extraordinary Families UP4Youth program participant. Initially, Iliana came to the program seeking assistance solely for employment, but she soon gained so much more. Growing up, Iliana didn't have many of the opportunities that most people take for granted. At age six, she entered the foster care system. While in care, she moved eight times, most often to group homes, where she found it challenging to identify a place she could call ?home.?Friends came and went; building a network of supportive people proved very difficult. Once Iliana turned 18 and transitioned out of care, she moved to Los Angeles where she became homeless for a year. In spite of these challenges, Iliana has proved resilient, progressing towards her life goals and the best version of herself she can be. When she first visited the UP4Youth office and met with program staff, Isaac Casas and Marcos Contreras, the team quickly enrolled her into the GED program, followed by employment workshops, and matching her with a mentor. With Iliana?s drive and UP4Youth?s support, she was able to secure a job at Dodger Stadium in short order. In addition to employment, Iliana shared, ?The program helped me learn to build more confidence in who I am, and no matter what, to always strive for the best." As she progresses through the program, her confidence and optimism continue to grow. ?She carries a different energy now. She's self-assured, and it's exciting to watch!?Marcos noted. Iliana is making sure to take advantage of all UP4Youth resources, workshops, and community events, and is excited to participate in the upcoming Speak UP4Youth event on June 30, where she will share her powerful story with other youth in foster care alongside key decision makers.

The program helped me learn to build more confidence in who I am, and no matter what, to always strive for the best EXTRAORDINARY FAMILIES | SUMMER 2018


Thank You KTLA 5 News Los Angeles

A BIG THANK YOU to the folks at KTLA 5 News, including Marcus Wilson-Smith, Micah Ohlman, and Vera Jimenez, for giving our UP4Youth participants and staff a full tour of the studios. What a great experience!

Many thanks to The Rose Hills Foundation for their investment in Extraordinary Families. Their generous grant will go towards recruiting more resource parents and supporting children in foster care. And thank you to Skylight Foundation and Angell Foundation, whose grants will support all programs of Extraordinary Families. We could not do this important work without our community partners.




Get Involved

Mentors Matter Sat urday, June 23 from 2pm - 5pm

St . Felix Hollywood - 1602 N. Cahuenga Boulevard You're invited to a very special Mentors Matter reception in honor of our UP4Youth program! Join us as we celebrate our partnership with KTLA 5 News and ROC LA, walk the red carpet, rub elbows with surprise celebrity guests, and learn about all the ways you can help support our foster youth at this fun meet and greet in the heart of Hollywood. For more information, call 213.365.2900.

Be someone who matters to someone who matters





1 IN 5



1 IN 3




You can help Fost er. Adopt . Ment or. Donat e. Advocat e. Get Involved. EXTRAORDINARY FAMILIES | SUMMER 2018


Excit News ing

Exciting News! We're expanding our footprint to better serve the community in south county and are proud to announce....

4201 N Long Blvd, Ste. 406, Long Beach, CA 90807

Extraordinary Families added a new location!

We look forward to servingyou LongBeach! EXTRAORDINARY FAMILIES | SUMMER SPRING 2018 2018


Excit News ing CHAMPION OF PRIDE We are so proud of our CEO, Sarah Boone, who received The Advocate's Champions of Pride award on June 1st at the Beverly Center. The event honored activists from all 50 states, including Miley Cyrus, Adam Rippon, Emma Gonzalez, and others in a diverse group of amazing change-makers leading what is nothing short of a revolution. LGBTQ leaders Jewel Thais-Williams and Cece Sauzo received Legacy Awards for their deep work in the community, and actress Laverne Cox led the countdown to the lighting up of the Beverly Center in rainbow colors in honor of Pride month. The highlight of the evening was of course watching Sarah receive recognition for her work as a true champion for LGBTQ children, youth, and families. For nearly two decades, Sarah has held leadership roles in foster care, adoption, and child welfare policy and has played a key role in developing practices and initiatives that have kept dozens of LGBTQ families intact, and youth safe and supported. As CEO of Extraordinary Families, she leads the agency in forging inclusive policies and practices to ensure the rights of both LGBTQ youth in foster care and LGBTQ parents seeking to foster and adopt are protected. To see highlights of this special evening, please visit The Advocate here!

Wilson Cruz presenting the Champions of Pride Award to Extraordinary Families CEO, Sarah Boone




Meet Rachel An Ext raordinary Parent

Rachel Harvey is helping to break the myth and

couldn?t care for them due to finances, resources, trauma, safety, and/or lack of parental support. I know this life is bigger than myself and I can?t sit comfortably while knowing I can do something to help children in need of love and safety. So, when I moved back to LA, I knew I wanted to be just as intentional with social justice issues here as I was in other countries. To make a long story short, once I found out how great the need for foster families was in LA, I knew I had to get involved.

prove you don?t have to be married or a stay-at-home parent in order to be successful in fostering. She is a phenomenal parent and advocate for the children who come into her care, and she does it while single and maintaining a full-time job. Rachel recently sat down to with us to share her thoughts on her experience. W hat mot ivat ed you t o fost er? First and foremost, I come from a very mixed and blended family, so the idea of raising children that are not biologically mine is not a foreign concept to me. I always knew I wanted to build a family through adoption in some form or another one day, but my love for fostering and foster care was borne through my work in community care overseas in places like Uganda and Haiti. I met and worked with families who loved their children, but

W hat has your overall experience been like fost ering? Fostering has been both extremely incredible and, at times, challenging as well. As one of my foster mama friends says, ?it?s the best worst thing.? Loving them as much as I do is the most natural and most terrifying thing I?ve ever done, but they make it easy and they are so worth it. Will they be with me forever? Maybe not. Does it hurt more than I?m prepared for when they leave? Absolutely. Am I attached? More than I can begin to explain. Do I question if I am strong enough to handle this? Everyday. Is that a reason not to give all of myself to them? With all my heart, no. But is this process about me at all? Simply, no. One thing I do know is that no matter how hard or scary it feels I am beyond grateful these children make me a mom even if I don?t get to be their forever one. Love can change a life, and it has certainly changed mine. W hat have been some of t he great est challenges? Being a single mom is no joke? it was definitely something I was conscious about walking into. I have a crazy-good support system, but nonetheless it can sometimes feel overwhelming when doing it alone. In foster care, timelines, trajectories, and plans can change instantly with one decision. The lack of control can change a person - usually for the better, but it's hard in the moment. Routines are scary in foster care? needed for the child?s stability and your sanity, yes? but, scary. What it does is take the understanding that you?re situation is temporary and make the life you are living day in and day out seem permanent. You start to unknowingly build a forever. And then it happens. The call you knew could eventually come, does. Even though you?ve tried to prepare (you can?t), you?re reminded you?ve been building on sand. So, you start to pack your ?forever? into boxes and bags? and send them along with your heart that?s now attached to your little love. And you do this knowing that you signed up to stand in the gap for these kids? whatever that looks like and however they need, no




Meet Rachel An Ext raordinary Parent

matter how hard it is to imagine them not calling you "home" anymore. That's why working with the wonderful staff at Extraordinary Families has been so positive. Everyone is so supportive and reassuring, helping me every step of the way.

How has t his process impact ed you? Oh, that is such an overwhelming question in the best way possible! This process has been completely life changing and I am just getting started! I am not the same person I was before, and despite the challenges and heartache, I am better for getting to be a foster mama. I have learned how to let go of control, fight like hell when necessary, and continue loving with complete abandon. It has also taught me patience for the process, grace for people, empathy for those struggling with unresolved trauma and addiction, and a strength to navigate through a broken system. This process made me a mom and the love I have for my kids is something I could not have ever imagined. No matter how many children I parent in my lifetime, for forever or for only a short a time, I will love them with every ounce of me and carry them with me always. This quote was shared with me at the beginning of this journey and it expresses it all: ?A child born to another women calls me mom. The depth of the tragedy and the magnitude of the privilege are not lost on me? ? Jody Landers

W hat have been some of t he great est rewards? Knowing that I?m a part of the foster community, a community that focuses on social issues and breaking cycles to help give children a stable foundation to continue their life journey is rewarding in itself. As a foster parent, one of the most common things you hear other people say is ?I couldn?t do it.? ?I could never watch them leave or give them back.? ?I couldn?t handle it.? The truth is yes, my heart shatters in the same way they think their hearts would break. Some days are filled with real pain, but you get a choice ? you get to choose a ?yes? in a world full of ?no? and walk this journey with these kids and their families anyway. The way I look at it is that the fact that it hurts as deep as it does only shows the amount of love I give to each little one placed with me. Foster care is heavy and hard and if you think its heavy for you, in all blunt honesty, it is much heavier for these kids and they don?t get a choice. The beginning of their lives might start off a little rough, but I get to be there to help rebuild the connection they need in order for them to hopefully prosper. I will willingly get my heart broken over and over again if it means there is one less child in the world that gets lost in the system or feels unsafe or scared in their circumstance. Fostering benefits both sides? not only does it give these children a higher chance at a stable future, but it also nurtures growth in us as foster parents, giving us the opportunity to look outside of ourselves and share in the blessings we have been given.

W hat advice can you offer prospect ive parent s? - Getting involved with foster care can seem really daunting in the beginning. There are a lot of unknowns and there is a lot of information to take in, but it is doable. Just take it one step at a time. It is worth it. You are needed, and all the support you need is at your fingertips! - Know your limits. I struggled in the process of getting approved with the fact that I would most likely need to say no to certain placements depending on the circumstance. This will not be the case later in my life, but as a single working mama right now, I had to be honest about what cases and kiddos I knew I could give 110% to. The last thing I wanted to do was fail these kids by not being able to give it my all. So, I encourage you to really think about what you can take on and give and know that it is okay to say no to cases or circumstances you know you and your family cannot handle. - Connect with the foster community. It makes this journey easier to have relationships with other resource parents/families who are in this world with you. You may be at different points in the process or be working toward different end goals, but it has made all the difference in the world to me to have friends to vent with, cry with, pray with, ask questions with, celebrate with, etc. who just understand on a level that others can?t.



BOARD OF DIRECTORS Juliet Musso Flournoy Professor of State Government, USC Sol Price School of Public Policy Ch air Sean Reese District Manager, Charter/Spectrum Communications Secr et ar y Dawn Bridges Director of Information Technology, KTGY Tr easu r er Sarah Boone, MSW Ch ief Execu t ive Of f icer Rick Bieber Principal, MiNDS i CiNEMA, Angel City Pictures Leonardo A. Bolanos, CTFA Vice President, Banking Relationship Advisor, Northern Trust Wealth Management 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 , Lucas Grindley President, Pride Media; Editor in Chief, The Advocate Brooke Halsband Associate, Hilton & Hyland Francesca Orsi Executive Vice President & Co-Head of Drama Series, HBO Shauna Shalom Senior Vice President, Private Banking Group Manager at EH National Bank Jocelyn Tetel Vice President, Advancement , Skirball Cultural Center Steve Vai Musician, Philanthropist


221 N. Ardmore Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90004 (213) 365-2900

Profile for ExtraordinaryFamilies

Starting Now - Summer 2018  

Starting Now - Summer 2018