By Emily Glory Peters
Most of us have an idea of how we’ll spend our next holiday, birthday or even weekend—and more importantly, who’ll we’ll spend it with. Yet for foster youth in Los Angeles, that same certainty can disappear in an instant.
Family separation, under any circumstance, takes a long toll on children in the system. More than 20,000 children are currently living in foster care in LA—broken off from their families, friends, even their school of origin. Especially for those living in congregate care (like group homes), exposure to critical life-skills can be difficult, delaying experiences that reveal talents, influence career paths and prepare these kids for the future.
Across Pasadena and beyond, a cadre of passionate young adults is seeking to fill that gap.
“The Alliance began in spring 2018 as a way to bring young adults into the orbit of foster children who need their positive influence in their lives,” explains Sue Lee Schwabe, volunteer and community engagement coordinator at Five Acres, a local residential treatment program for foster youth. “We wanted to introduce experiences that open the kids up to new ideas in a way that’s practical for their development, but with a fun twist.”
Since launching, The Alliance has attracted a diverse group of young adults from all over San Gabriel Valley and LA County. The group has two primary functions: first, to create quarterly events for the foster youth in residence at Five Acres (like a recent cooking class that taught the basics of building a meal). Second up are fun advocacy events and mixers, which raise awareness for the need for more volunteers and foster parents in LA.
As The Alliance moves out of its pilot stage into year two, its goals gain definition. Its two co-presidents, MaryAnn White and Annie Hu, along with its volunteer board have a clear focus for the kids’ events (education, self-care, nutrition and fitness) and structure for upcoming mixers.
“My time volunteering at Five Acres has been an incredibly rewarding experience. I’ve always had a passion for working with kids in the foster system, so discovering Five Acres and becoming part of this incredible organization just made sense,” says White, who learned of the group through social media. “I love teamwork and collaboration, and that’s what being part of The Alliance is all about. Our board members have been busy behind the scenes working on some great activities with the kids, and we have some fun advocacy events for our 2019/2020 year.”
Of course, new blood is always needed, so The Alliance keeps its monthly meetings open to anyone interested in joining in—whether they’re looking to actualize social change or simply make new friends via a worthy cause.
“More and more individuals, businesses and religious organizations are realizing that kids are growing up right here in our backyard without permanent families,” explains Schwabe. “We know not everyone can foster, but absolutely everyone can do something to help these children know they’re loved and capable of great things.”
The Alliance meets the second Tuesday of every month at 760 W. Mountain View Street in Altadena. To learn more about how to join, contact the group at www.5acres.org/alliance | firstname.lastname@example.org | email@example.com or call (626) 773-3751.