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STARTING NOW It's National Mentoring Month! You can be the difference a young person needs to succeed. Become a Mentor!

Inthisissue: - Meet Adrea & Justin Pino - Outstanding Social Worker - Girls Build LA - Many Thanks!

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AMagazineof ExtraordinaryFamilies

Contents 3

Q&A A Conversation with UP4Youth Program Manager, Isaac Casas


Meet Casaundra Renner and Laura Sweet


Thank You



Making a Difference


Action Alert National Mentoring Month

Many Thanks to our Donors and Volunteers

Outstanding Social Worker, Eileen Lopez


Extraordinary Families Meet Adrea and Justin Pino

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Q: What is t he import ance of ment oring? A: Mentoring is powerful. I've seen firsthand how it can make a profound difference in a youth's life through human connection, providing much-needed support, helping to alleviate stressors to make room for growth. This ability to grow is most important it's the trigger to overcoming obstacles and challenges. For our youth and young adults, the ability to adapt and grow may be hindered as a result of the challenges they faced growing up in foster care, and reaching goals may be more difficult for them than their non-foster peers. Mentors can make a huge impact simply by being a constant in their lives, a steady support while they make the transition to independence. Mentors teach life skills and strategies, share personal stories of successes and failures, and connect mentees to great community resources and their personal networks. Additionally, they can help build up a young person?s resilience, inspire and guide youth to pursue productive futures and reach their full potential. Just being available for emotional support when needed is a huge contributor to a youth's positive growth. I

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encourage all youth and young adults with experience in foster care to consider being matched with a mentor; and adults with the willingness and ability to share their time, knowledge, guidance, and life experiences to consider being matched with a young adult. The potential for growth and making a profound difference in someone?s life is not limited to the mentee. Mentors, too, have much to gain. Q: How has working wit h yout h impact ed your l if e? A: Working with young adults and helping them on their paths to achieve success has made a huge impact in my life. Since beginning my work with Extraordinary Families and our UP4Youth program, I have learned so much about the young people we serve. They have been through a lot in their young lives, and I feel a great responsibility to help make their futures better. I hope that we can be that light they sometimes may need to keep their hope alive. While this work isn?t always easy, being able to follow their journeys ? watching them begin at one point in life and overcome obstacles and barriers they face to achieve their success ? makes it all worth while. I love looking back at a young adult and seeing

how strong they truly are and how far they have come. Q: What excit ing t hings are on t he horizon f or 2018? A: UP4Youth is all about growth. In a matter of just a few months, we have almost doubled our program size from 35 to 65 participants. We continue to welcome more youth into the program, and continuously train and match mentors to guide these young people. We will offer another round of our writing workshops which give youth a forum to express themselves creatively, and if inspired to do so, share their stories at a public event hosted by UP4Youth. We will also be taking our participants to the Los Angeles Opera for the first time to see ?Candide? in February, thanks to the generosity of a donor. Although it may seem simple, opportunities to experience and enjoy art and culture are so crucial, and we hope to offer more experiences like this to our youth in the future. To learn more about the UP4Youth program, call Isaac, or our Program Coordinator, Marcos Contreras, at (213) 365-2900, or reach out via email at and


Thank You

Thankyoutoour holiday partydonors! This year's hol iday part y was the best yet! Our children and youth were showered with gifts, enjoyed puppet and bubble shows, a photo booth, face painting, a delicious meal and tasty treats, and a special visit from Santa, too. It truly was a special day, and the room was filled with excitement and cheer. But we couldn't have done it without our amazing volunteers: Allstate Insurance Company - Diamond Bar -

Allstate Woodland Hills Archer Norris Bloc Talent Agency LA Promise Fund Charter Middle School Nancy Medina & Family


Thank you Ashl ey Tit us for the incredible haul of Usborne books! There will be a lot of happy reading going on in our families' homes this year! Murphy O'Brien Nguyen-Puebla Family Rose Pondel & The Family Formation Law Center St. Clare of Assisi Religious Education Youth Program, Santa Clarita Stillwell Family Catering for our party was very generously donated by A Classy Party to Remember. Thank you Veronica Sanchez and Monique Gabriel, and your crew of wonderful volunteers!

VERYSPECIALTHANKS Make-A-Noise Foundat ion Ef rain Guzman and Swif t Charit ies

Laurie Cooper and Verizon for the incredible donation of wrapping paper!

for your Truckers on Bike for Kids Toy Run!

Andrianna D'Sant Angel o & Friends

A Cl assy Part y t o Remember Cat ering

for your generous donations of gift cards and your help wrapping 250 presents!

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Thank You


Inf init e t hanks

to the wonderful

girls of Girls Build LA: Ashley, Amanda, Daniya, BrahNya, Destiny, E'mari, Genesis, Jescyille, Heaven, London, Emily, Osiris, and Melanie. Dedicated to bringing awareness to injustices that occur in and out of school, such as bullying, homelessness and domestic abuse, the girls did their research and chose to work with Extraordinary Families, knowing many children in foster care have experienced such injustices. The girls held a bake sale at their school to raise money to buy gifts for kids in our care, volunteered their time and effort to wrap presents, and then interviewed our intake administrator, Marta Valle, about our work in child welfare. They then posted their podcast on their website. Destiny of the pack shared, "it was fun helping other kids in need." "The Wol f Pack's mission is t o bring awareness t o

t he "Wol f Pack" of Girl s Buil d LA!

injust ices t hat many peopl e f ace in our school and communit y. We are commit t ed t o having conversat ions about bul l ying, racism, sexism, homel essness and domest ic abuse. We want t o serve our communit y and be agent s of change."

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Bravo, Wolf Pack, for learning about something new and paying it forward. We hope to do more work with them in the future!

Visit the Wolf Pack at


Thank You

Thankyoutoall of our 2017donors!

Thank you to the Greater Los Angeles African American Chamber of Commerce for its generous donation of school supplies!

Thank you to Wel l s Fargo, El Segundo for choosing Extraordinary Families as your charity of choice for your Community Support Campaign this Fall. They raised over $3,500! Thank you to Bot t ega Louie and Ryan Shaprio for the delicious sweets for our parent open house event! Thank you to the managers at our local Chipot l e on Larchmont Boulevard for the loaded burritos for our Film Fridays with UP4Youth!

Thank you to our fabulous resource parent Marie Pet ul l a and Union Rest aurant for donating the catering for our two open house events. She is amazing!

Thank you to Board Member Lucas Grindl ey and his husband Nat han Rif enburg from the LA Opera for sponsoring our UP4Youth participants to see Candide in February! This will be the first opera experience for each of them, and we are all so excited. Thank you Dant e Cervant es and Syl via Ramirez for generously donating an Xbox to UP4Youth for our youth and young adults!!! We've launched Game Days for our youth to come together and bond over a Extfriendly raordinar yFamilies | W inter 20 18 little competition.

Many thanks to our resource parent Georgene Smit h and Eart hl y Body for the generous donation of beauty products for our young adults!

This Nat ional Ment oring Mont h and the 24th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr. National Day of Service this January 15th, Extraordinary Families would like to recognize and give thanks to all of those who have devoted their time and energy to service as mentors and volunteers for our UP4Youth program. The support they provide is critical in helping to build sustainable futures for our youth and young adults. -

Jayne Clement George Stewart Michael Rocchio Emily Rogers John Alden


Lili Praisan Tanya Miller Laura Sweet Kathy Katims Jaime Lehman


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Thank You

...manythankstoour 2017donors! Changemaking Part ners $100,000 + -

Angell Foundation Eisner Foundation John Gogian Family Foundation May & Stanley Smith Charitable Trust Ralph M. Parsons Foundation S. Mark Taper Foundation Lynne Okon Scholnick UniHealth Foundation W.M. Keck Foundation

$10,000 t o $99,999 -

CAA Carrie Estelle Doheny Foundation John Cohlan Diane & Bruce Halle Foundation Fox Television Group Green Foundation HBO Howard Kaufman Bryan Kopp Stephanie Nicks Steve & Pia Vai Rosanne Ziering

$5,000 t o $9,999 -

Sarah Boone Dawn Bridges Carrington Mortgage Services Ken & Lisa Clark Craig Fruin Dell & Kym Furano Todd Gelfand Trudy Green Imperative Entertainment Lisa Kring NBC Universal Carl Stubner World of Wonder

$1,000 t o $4,999 Sterling Ball Connie Blankenship Nancy Bolanos Suzanne Boone Marylou Boone Boston Private Angela Bromstad Stephanie Bronson Emily Brown Michael Camunez Century Housing Matthieu Chabelard Chicago Scott Cutshall Phil & Stacie D'Amour Andrianna D'Sant Angelo & Friends Ext raordinar yFamilies | W inter 20 18


Gabriel & Nava Danovitch, MD Benjamin Davis Jennifer Diener David Eilenberg & Kirsten Roeters Carolyn Folks Kevin Goetz & Neil Goetz Michael & Kathie Gordon Greenberg Traurig, LLP Lucas Grindley Stephen Gutwillig & Raymond Williams Brooke & Ken Halsband Jennifer Hawbaker Ellen & Tom Hoberman Philip Holthouse Saskia Pallais & Zach Hoover Jeff Hyland In 'n Out Burger Foundation Kathy & Jason Katims Catherine Kaufman Jack & Leslie Kavanaugh Glenda & Norman Kravetz Mark & Jennifer Krueger Kate Kuykendall George Lopez Larry Vallon & Jay Marciano Ron Meyer Juliet Musso Orrick Francesca Orsi Allyson Pfeifer Marco Polanco Sean Reese Renee Ridgeley & Matt Selman Dennis & Jill Roach Glen & Kathy Rosenberg Zaza & Shon Saleh Miguel Sanchez Henry Schleiff Mitch Schneider Bill Silva Skyyler Tyyler Charitable Foundations Eileen Son Jocelyn Tetel Marjorie & Joe Walsh Wells Fargo Tiffany White Ziffren Brittenham

$500 t o $999 -

Atlas Family Foundation Bank of America Charitable Foundation Snunit Ben-Ozer Rick Bieber Andrew Brandon-Gordon Robert & Brenda Cooke Heather de Michele & Anna Fitzwater Larry DiMarzio Leonardo Bolanos


Alexander Escalante Roy Firestone Calvin Fleming Sylvia Fogelman Jon Fulton Maria Garcia Porter Gilberg Margaret Goodman Harrington Marcie Hartley Singer Geoffrey Hutson DaJuan Johnson Curt Kaminska Lester Knispel Clover Leary & Natalie Nardecchia Joe Leonard Aliza Lesser Enoch Liang Little Diversified Architecture Sheryl Louis Janet Marinaccio Michelle Mayer Shelley McCrory Lana McFann Nancy Medina & Family Grace Miller William Molinski Brock Moseley Jerry & Cathy Murff Miriam Muscarolas Perceptiv Jean Prewitt Rose Rakosky Alexandra & Chris Robertiello Richard Rosen John Rubey Eric Schlissel Ruta Sepetys Robin Shaw Benjamin & Lyndy Stone-Walsh Swift Charities This Is Us Richard Valenza Amir & Sila Vokshoor Ralph Walter Hazel Williams-Carter

$100 t o $499 -

Ron & Anne Abramson Marc Ackerman Angela Adams Megan & Stephen Adler Agbor Agbor Christina Aguilera Stephanie Albrecht Ernesto Amaya & Vicente Manriquez Sheldon & Carol Appel Family Fdtn. Isabel Araiza Visit here for the complete list of our generous donors. 77

OutstandingSocial Worker

EileenLopez Eil een Lopez joined Extraordinary Families last January and has since proven to be an outstanding social worker, team player, and stellar advocate for the children and families we serve. With an undergraduate degree in Child Development from Mount St. Mary's College, and a Masters in Social Work from Columbia University, NYC, Eileen has worked with diverse populations, from survivors of sexual abuse in the Bronx to older males trying to overcome drug/ alcohol addiction in a small group home in Brooklyn. She has over 6 years of experience working with various foster family agencies, large and small, and also supervised MSW interns from USC, CSULA/ LB, and Azusa Pacific University. "Eileen exudes confidence in everything she does," shared foster care supervisor, Amanda Silvers. "She has been in the field working with foster children and youth for several years, has insightful perspective, and strong clinical, advocacy, and leadership skills. She is always supporting the team - she goes above and beyond - and the families she works with love her. Becoming a foster parent is not an easy process," shared Jami Rudofsky. "But what has helped me is knowing that Eileen always has my back, no matter what. If I am struggling with something, she helps me problem solve. When she comes to my home, she goes straight to the baby and scoops him up. When he sees her, he smiles from ear to ear, and so do I." Thank you, Eileen, for everything you do for our families and staff! Ext raordinar yFamilies | W inter 20 18

Making a Dif f erence

ResourceParent Orientation Saturday

February10th Makea 9:30amtonoon differenceand foster RSVP with Drew at 213-365-2900 or




Laura Sweet al ways want ed t o adopt or f ost er an older child, but never lived in a home big enough to allow for it. "Mentoring seemed like a good way to share my time with children," Sweet shared. "I've been through a lot," she added, "grew up in Detroit, have a good sense of street smarts, have come a long way and have built a pretty rewarding life for myself." Because of this, she explained, "I feel like I have a good foundation to help guide someone through the tough years of finding your way." "Laura is very outgoing and has a lot of energy," shared UP4Youth program manager, Isaac Casas. She has been able to overcome challenges in her own life, which gives her strength and a unique ability to support and inspire youth. The steps she has taken, her accomplishments, fortitude and self-reflection make her a fantastic role model. Sweet learned about Extraordinary Families through a friend who fosters with the agency. She attended a mentor orientation, completed training, and was matched to mentee Casaundra Renner, a young mother of a 3-year-old toddler. Renner shared she spent 18 years in the foster care system until she emancipated. She faced many obstacles while in care, and moved around a lot afterwards, until entering a residential housing program for mothers transitioning out of foster care. There, she befriended another young woman who introduced her to Extraordinary Families' UP4Youth program.

Let your guarddownand just takethechance...a mentor canbelikea parent. Theycanactually giveyoutheadvicethat your momor dador anybodyyougrewupwith shouldhavegiven youbut didn't - Casaundra Renner

Renner joined the program with the goal of getting assistance with housing, clothing, mentoring, transportation and employment services. And since joining, she has been tenacious. She's now working full-time, and she has been active in all program activities. "She's the kind of young woman who does not give up," Casas said. "She is driven to make sure she has what she and her daughter need," and "she never settles: when she accomplishes a goal, she looks for that next goal to work toward." She has so much potential and is willing to work hard to succeed. She is also a genuine, kind person, often thinking of other participants in the program to ensure everyone is "making it." "If you ask her for help," Casas stated, Ext raordinar yFamilies | W inter 20 18


M ak ing A Dif f erence "she is the kind of person who is willing to say yes and do whatever she can." Renner has been working with Sweet for nearly a year now, and the two are developing a strong relationship. "She treats me and my daughter like her own family," Renner said of Sweet. "She cares so much...she gives me advice, she's there when I need someone to talk to, and she's helping me get back on my feet." Casas shared, "Laura is great, too, at reaching out to us for resources she can share with Casuandra. They have a strong bond that you can see, and you know Laura is making a positive impact." Both adventurous, Sweet and Renner enjoy many outdoor activities together, but they also always take time to focus on the goals Renner has set out to achieve. Renner's number one


goal is to be the best parent she can be. Already employed full-time, she plans to advance her education, setting her sights on becoming a cosmetologist or message therapist. "Mentoring Casaundra has definitely been rewarding for me," Sweet shared. "I feel her, and I have built a great bond. I really care a lot about her and her daughter. I want the best for her and try hard to help guide her to make choices that will lead her in that direction more easily. I'm sure she feels she can count on me to be there for her. I hope she feels the support I provide is beneficial." To others who may be considering mentoring, Sweet said, "Do it. It is hard at times - just like anything else that matters. And once you decide to do it, make sure you are always there for them no matter what. Be on time. Don't cancel. Let them know you are proud of them for their accomplishments and their effort, that you accept them for who they are. That's my approach. The time you spend is well worth it." Renner shared this sentiment, offering the following advice to other young adults considering being matched with a mentor: "Let your guard down and just take the chance...a mentor can be so important. They can actually give you the advice that your mom or dad or anybody you grew up with should have given you but didn't." Thank you, Laura, for the dedication, time, effort, and care you give to Casaundra - for being someone who matters to someone who matters. And thank you, Casaundra, for your tenacity, hard work, and compassion for others. You are an extraordinary young woman and fine example to other young women and mothers. Thank you for allowing us to be a part of your life journey.

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National Mentoring Month

Act ion Alert

Mentoring is an essential part of any young person's life, helping them make decisions

and connections that lead to many opportunities and improved life outcomes. Mentoring is especially beneficial to at-risk youth, helping them to succeed in school, work, and life, and there is a strong research base supporting this:

IN3 1 youthdonot havethe support of amentor


Wit h a m en t or , at -r isk you t h ar e:


lesslikelytothantheir peersto skipadayof school

55% morelikelytobeincollege 46%

lesslikelythantheir peersto start usingdrugs

81% morelikelytoparticipateinsports and/or extracurricular activities

78% morelikelytovolunteer regularlyin their communities

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source: Mentor, The National Mentoring Network 11

Act ion Alert

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M ak ing A Our Dif fExt erence raordinar y Families Adrea Pino became passionat e about f ost er care and

We'resoblessed tohaveKeyiaas our daughter. Adrea Pino

adoption in her 20s while volunteering as a mentor for foster youth, and providing childcare for other foster/ adoptive parents during trainings. When discussing marriage with her now-husband, Justin, and hoping to start their own family soon after, they each felt a strong desire to help care for a child in need. They chose to foster and hoped at some point it would result in adoption. Just five months after getting married, they began the process to become approved. Extraordinary Families ?was the first and only agency orientation we attended.? Adrea shared they appreciated the staff and the diversity of people and families we work with, and felt like they were presented with a realistic and truthful perspective about how foster care works. But no matter how enlightening and helpful the training was to prepare them, Adrea shared they quickly learned the process has many ups and downs you simply can?t prepare for. ?The system is challenging and flawed,? she explained, ?and you basically have to just roll with it and focus on loving the child? each case is unique.? She added, ?and you have to learn as you go. It?s been so eye opening, and we have learned and grown tremendously as people and as parents.? Keyia joined the Pino family two years ago, and they have been dedicated to her ever since. ?Adrea left her high power event planning job to be a stay at home mom,? shared adoption social worker Emily Goldberg. "When they discovered they were pregnant with their son, Gabe, they didn't skip a beat and remained committed to Keyia throughout." This was evident in their strong advocacy for needed medical and therapeutic interventions for Keyia, who has made tremendous progress under their loving care. ?It's been amazing to watch her grow and change based on where she was when she joined us,? the couple shared. Because of the extent of neglect Keyia experienced before joining them at 11-months-old, she had some developmental delays - she couldn?t roll over or sit up on her own, and was barely eating solid foods. Justin and

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M ak ing A Our Dif fExt erence raordinar y Families

Adrea worked with her to roll, sit, stand, and diligently practiced walking, which she mastered at 16 months. Keyia also had no verbal skills, so the Pinos started using and teaching her baby sign language. "With time, love and stimulation, she progressed quickly," shared Adrea. She added, "Keyia is so smart, has a remarkable memory, she's social and friendly ? chatting with everyone and making friends wherever she goes. She loves dancing, going to the park, and is really enjoying preschool. Though there have been bumps along the way, Keyia has met or exceeded every developmental milestone and is doing great."

Keyia, Gabe, Adrea, and Justin became a forever family in October of last year. To other prospective resource parents, the couple offered the following advice: Make friends with other foster and adoptive parents. You will need people you can talk openly with and can understand what you and your child(ren) are going through. Stay educated and open to learning. Know that every case is different and things change from day to day. As hard as it is, flexibility is key. In the end you are loving this child and providing a safe and healthy home with no assurance of what the future may hold. Read and learn about the loss and trauma associated with foster care and adoption ? it?s critical. Finally, this is an emotionally demanding process. It's important to also take care of, and take time for yourself, even if it's just taking a moment away to sit at a coffee shop and read.

Six months after joining the family, the Pinos' son, Gabe, was born. Keyia loved and doted on Gabe as an infant. Once he began sitting up and playing with toys, though, a sense of rivalry ensued and she became territorial. The Pinos sought therapeutic support and were told, in light of Keyia's history, she naturally may view Gabe as a ?threat.? Through therapy, time, and most importantly, the Pinos' consistnet demonstration of love, nurturance, and commitment, Keyia's behavior and bond with Gabe improved. The Pinos make a point to have "special time" with each child individually, which has helped build the sibling relationship. Ext raordinar yFamilies | W inter 20 18


BOARD OF DIRECTORS Juliet Musso Flournoy Professor of State Government, USC Sol Price School of Public Policy Chair Sean Reese District Manager, 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

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Starting Now - Winter 2017  

Starting Now - Winter 2017