Meeting Young People’s Greatest Needs with Trusted, Credible Voices
Alonie will never forget the day she nearly lost her home.
Her apartment’s new management company moved her rental payment dates from the 15th to the 1st of each month. Alonie had relied on mid-month payments from a government program to pay her rent. Alonie was also caring for her young daughter and trying to find a full-time job. Unable to make the next month’s rent, Alonie was on the verge of homelessness.
She reached out to Beautiena Mataele, a peer advocate for transition-age foster youth with Children’s Law Center of California (CLC). Mataele was once in foster care herself and knew personally the challenges Alonie faced.
Mataele and CLC’s housing team supported Alonie by providing one-time financial support to avoid eviction and connecting her to financial literacy and job readiness training. Thanks to their help and immediate intervention, Alonie never experienced homelessness and landed the job she had wanted.
“If you are constantly worried about where you are going to live, you cannot focus on anything else,” says Mataele. “Our clients need to be housed to be successful.”
A Los Angeles-based nonprofit, CLC has about 600 staff, including 25 staff with lived experience. These positions are all filled by people, like Mataele, who have directly experienced the child welfare system.
“Hiring people with lived experience and infusing their experiences into our work was a game-changer for us,” says CLC’s Executive Director Leslie Starr Heimov. “We learn so much from them every day.”
CLC exclusively represents children and youth in the child welfare system using a unique multi-disciplinary model. In Los Angeles, CLC represents 24,000 young people in court cases that can determine whether they are separated or reunited with their families. Launched in 1990, CLC has expanded its work beyond in-court representation to address a multitude of their clients’ needs, including but not limited to educational advocacy, parenting support, services for trafficked youth, and mental health and wellness.
While most transition-age youth need a lot of support, meaningful support can only be provided once trust has been established. That’s where CLC’s model excels.
“There’s an understandable distrust, and when our youth are meeting with someone who has lived experience, there’s a different level of understanding because they actually have walked in their shoes,” Heimov says. “They can relate and provide empathy and be a credible voice.”
CLC also engages in policy advocacy to improve the system. They are working to advance racial equity in the child welfare system and create a future where families of color are no longer separated at higher rates than others, Heimov says.
Development Manager: Stephanie Talavera
Children’s Law Center of California (CLC) provides legal representation for children and youth impacted by abuse and neglect. We advocate for our clients by supporting families; fighting for reunification, permanence, educational opportunity, health, and mental health wellness; and empowering and strengthening children, families, and their communities. Our informed approach to advocacy makes us a powerful voice in local, statewide, and national child welfare system reform.
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The Family Support and Advocacy Center helped my small family with legal advice and got our DCFS case closed. Parent Support Case Manager Christopher Fry and attorney Maria Griglio were super supportive, friendly, and consistently checked in on me to see how they can help with finding resources or even directing me in the right direction. They gave me updates consistently throughout the duration of working through my DCFS investigation and helped put my mind at ease. I would recommend FSAC to any family in need of support because they are a great team.
Help Give Youth a Voice in Their Own Lives
Children’s Law Center of California is working to help youth raise their voices and be heard.
CLC is expanding its multidisciplinary approach by launching a youth advisory council made up of former foster youth. The council will be comprised of young people who have had a variety of experiences in the system, such as being reunified with their family, being adopted, or aging out of the system.
Through this council, young people will have the opportunity to inform and inspire a reimagining of the child welfare system based on their experiences. The council’s honest reflections will help CLC to meet their goal of continuous quality improvement and ever greater impact.
A gift of $2,500 will help seed the creation of the youth council and ensure that the youth members have the support and resources they need to meet the goals they set.
Friends of CLC
American Business Bank
and Ellen Goldberg
California Community Foundation
Chay and Kim Lapin
Conrad N. Hilton Foundation
Dara and Conan Barker
In-N-Out Burger Foundation
Joseph and Jean Mandel
Neal Kaufman, MD, MPH
Pritzker Foster Care Initiative
Ralph M. Parsons Foundation
Samuel and Helene
The Barry and Wendy
The Durfee Foundation
W.M. Keck Foundation
The Walter S. Johnson