Youth in Foster Care Find ‘Community is Family’
Since 1998, South Los Angeles nonprofit Peace4Kids has connected youth in foster care to a community they can count on – in short, a family.
Youth participation in Peace4Kids is twice as long as the average foster care placement. Youth often have more history with the organization than with any foster family, group home, or similar entity.
“We’ve learned that the continuity of care is important for young people who are in foster care, and that they need to feel a part of something bigger than themselves because so much of their lives can be transient as they move from home to home and from place to place,” says Zaid Gayle, Peace4Kids cofounder.
Gayle started the organization with Marni Otway in honor of the Season for Nonviolence, a nationwide campaign to promote peace. It all began 23 years ago when Gayle and Otway set out to plant a peace garden at the 99th Street Elementary School in the Watts area of South L.A. Students wrote letters about the need for such a garden, detailing how violence had shaped their lives and underscoring their longing for family and community.
“So many kids that were coming [to the garden] were young people who had a foster care experience,” Gayle says. “And that was something that was incredibly important to me because my mom is someone who had a lived experience with foster care, and my dad, in addition to being a minister, worked for the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services. My thought was, ‘I can do something that honors my parents.’”
That’s why Peace4Kids embraces a “Community as Family” model. Preschoolers through young adults build relationships with a community of dedicated volunteers, a third of whom experienced the child welfare system themselves. Now, many Peace4Kids alumni are giving back to a new generation of youth coming up through the program.
Following a strength-based model, youth have an opportunity to focus on their talents through the Peace4Kids Core Saturday Program offering creative and educational courses, field trips, life skills, and mentorship opportunities.
Connecting to mentorship is one of the top requests of Peace4Kids youth. The nonprofit employs a group mentoring concept, where connections are relevant and relatable to the explicit needs of the youth. This yields support of one or more volunteers simultaneously, in collaboration or successively – and encourages youth to expand their support network.
“So many times, when people work with young people in foster care, they come at it from the deficit perspective,” Gayle said. “Well, we want to lift up what works.”
Through January 15, 2022, the first $1,500 donated will be matched thanks to the Giving List’s novel matching program.
Successful Transitions into Adulthood
Covid-19 has had a compounding effect on transition age youth (TAY) exiting foster care. The financial impact of unemployment has impacted their housing stability, and food security. In addition, months of isolation due to the safer-at-home order has also strained their mental health and wellbeing. Peace4Kids is launching its own TAY Recovery Initiative to support the 18-24 year olds in their community in successfully emerging from the pandemic. They are seeking to raise $50,000 that will provide direct financial assistance, mentorship, coaching, and peer-to-peer mediation support.
Peace4Kids connects youth in foster care in South Los Angeles to community leaders, volunteers, and peers in a nonclinical setting. Rather than focus on the disadvantages of being in the child welfare system, the organization teaches young people how to identify and activate their talents and strengths.
Young adults in the program can also receive individualized coaching, leadership development, housing, and support as they transition out of the child welfare system.
The needs of Peace4Kids’ transitional youth services program have become urgent during the coronavirus pandemic. This global crisis has increased the barriers to employment, housing, food, healthcare, and other necessities that young people leaving foster care typically face. Your gift to Peace4Kids would help it direct resources to youth aging out of foster care with few resources to support their transition.
Peace4Kids is a non-profit, volunteer supported organization promoting trust, equity and stability for children in foser care.
(323) 569.2034 x 4
Executive Director: Zaid Gayle
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Peace4Kids was a safe and special place for me. I really cultivated my gifts, and built lifelong relationships. I feel strongly that my professional success is directly related to what I gained from my time at Peace4Kids. It’s for that reason that I continue to invest my time and money to support the youth currently coming through their programs.
The Ahmanson Foundation
William I. Smith Foundation
S. Mark Taper Foundation
The Green Foundation
Pritzker Foster Care Initiative
Ralph M. Parsons Foundation
Los Angeles County Development Authority
Barry Meyer and Wendy Smith Meyer
ESPN / Disney
HMS Host Foundation
Jordan Corngold and Susannah Blinkoff
Dwight Stuart Youth Fund
Rick and Susan Theder
Buscaino Community Grants
Community Partners / Transforming L.A.