Community unites to bring more homeless youth services to South LA

Jiovonni Tripplett

Jiovonni Tripplett

Dressed to the nines in a grey pinstriped suit, Jiovonni Tripplett hardly looks like he’d ever been homeless. But it was only months ago that the 23-year-old South Los Angeles native stopped seeing the streets as a necessary way of life.

The only child of a mother struggling to overcome drug and alcohol addiction, Tripplett recalls lashing out at other family members who tried to care for him—including his grandmother, who eventually turned the self-described “wild” child over to the county’s Department of Child and Family Services when he was 8 years old.

Tripplett floated in and out of foster homes, and later, youth detention camps—at 13, he stole a car and was released from foster care to juvenile probation services. Ignoring his family’s efforts to help him, he found solace in a gang and racked up robbery and assault charges. [Read more…]

Help support foster youth!

Living Advantage

Lisa A., client, Eugenia W., Program Director, Eric B., supporter, Cindy Martinez, El Mundo Television Personality

There are nearly 40,000 foster youth living in Los Angeles County—and this year alone 1,400 young adults will “age out” the foster care system thus becoming disqualified for support services.

At the age of 18, their cases will be terminated and many have to resort to life out on the streets with little life skills and no financial support. They become vulnerable and exposed to committing theft, prostitution, and drug abuse for survival. Forty to fifty percent of foster youth become homeless and 25 percent will be incarcerated within two years. These are the problems that Living Advantage Inc. seeks to address.  [Read more…]

Relative caregivers fight for their foster youth

By Rebekah Valencia, Staff Reporter

imageWhen Deanne D’Antignac received the call asking if she would care for her niece, she said “yes.” The only other option was to turn her over to strangers. She did not know that the care of one niece would turn into permanent legal guardianship of three nieces and the sacrifice of her career and financial security.

Data from the Community Coalition South Los Angeles shows that D’Antignac is one of 2,500 relatives in South L.A. who take in family members, and one of 2.5 million relative caregivers nationwide. These caregivers say they do not receive the same support as other foster care providers, and have little to no preparation, guidance, or resources.

At a town hall meeting in South L.A. on February 25, relative caregivers shared their concerns with the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth.

The caucus is co-chaired by 33rd Congressional District Representative Karen Bass (D-CA) and Rep. Tom Marino (R-PA), who both participated on the Congressional panel along with Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA). South L.A. was the first stop on a national listening tour to hear from youth and families about what is working in the foster care system and what needs to be improved.

On one panel, D’Antignac shared her story and the unique struggles of relative caregivers, saying that the majority of these relatives have no warning that the next day they will become parents.

image“When I received the phone calls, I did not have time to prepare like a foster parent would. This is not a job that I applied for; and early on, I did not receive money or training for them,” said D’Antignac, who had to quit her job as a physician’s assistant to care for her three nieces.

Edgar Campos, organizer for Community Coalition South LA, estimated that about 40% of relative caregivers in South L.A. live under the federal poverty line — $23,050 for a family of four. Multiple caregivers at the meeting testified that they were forced to give up work and use their own savings and retirement funds to provide for their child.

Debra Lee, another South L.A. relative caregiver, raised two of her grandchildren and is now raising her 3-year-old great-granddaughter. She says grandparents in this economy do not have sufficient funds for raising children.

“Long gone are the days where grandma had this big old pension,” said Lee. “We don’t have that pension. I was a working grandma when I got the kids.”

Not only do relative caregivers say they struggle to find funding for their foster children, but they also lack resources and counseling necessary to learn how to obtain essential services.

“The children usually come to relative care without any resources, without any funds and with no clothes. Just the child,” said D’Antignac.

The lack of resources can leave relative caregivers searching all over the city to find the services they need for their children.

image“It took a year to get services for my granddaughter; by then, she was darn near psychotic from not having medicine [for mental illness],” said Lee.

Relative caregivers in South L.A. are advocating for hubs inside the community where formal and informal relative caregivers can go to access mental health services and other resources.

They also continue to push for representation in Congress and in the courts. As the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth continues its tour around the country, Bass says that she wants to create a national movement to help move policy along on a national level.

Relative caregivers, hoping to contribute their voices to these policy changes, ask legislators to take ownership of foster youth. Representative Marino said he hopes that he and the other 41 members of the caucus can do just that.

“We will continue to take your message, our message, to Washington to protect the most valuable resource that we have. And that is our children—all of our children—on that you have our commitment,” said Marino.

Foster Youth fights to protect children in court

image“Nothing about us without us” was the slogan at today’s news conference held by the California Youth Connection and Foster Youth organizations outside the Ronald Reagan state bulding.

They came together to voice support for a lawsuit that would appeal a blanket order made by Los Angeles Judge Michael Nash. His order would open juvenile court hearings to the public and media.

Nash’s ruling applies largely to cases concerning child abuse, foster care, and adoption proceedings in court.

Leslie Heimov, executive director of the Children’s Law Center of California believes that opening up these cases makes it harder for children’s rights to be protected.

“If the proceedings are open and their information gets out that would lead to identifying who the child is with or where they are living, what school they’ve changed to their physical safety could be threatened.”

Lucias Bouge, grew up in the foster care. He knows how hard it is to become comfortable with your story.

image“Foster youth who are under the age of 18 and don’t necessarily have have the maturity or the growth to be able to do that, no longer have the choice to make it their own. I don’t feel that it’s fair.”

Judge Nash says that the order will not grant automatic entry into these cases.

“The blanket order is designed to establish a process and clear guidelines for how the press and the public can have access to dependency court proceedings in light of existing law.”

In some cases children may want their story to be heard, but the CYC believes there needs to be a choice and case by case assessment of whether any of the information could be harmful.