There are more than 58,000 children and youth in California living in foster care. Nearly one in five has a disability, with learning disabilities as the most predominant. Foster youth have higher high school dropout rates, lower graduation rates, and of those who find employment – below average wages. Only a small percentage goes on to community college; many do not make it to the second year. The obstacles to employment success for youth leaving the foster care system are enormous.
May is National Foster Care Month – a time to highlight the great work being done by PRIDE Industries’ Youth Services team in support of foster youth and others facing barriers to employment.
Employment supports can bridge a critical gap for youths as they transition from the foster care system to the working world. For these young adults, survival is a struggle enough. Few have had adult role models or mentors who have invested in preparing them for the workforce.
At-risk youth ages 17-21 enrolled in PRIDE’s Youth Services Program receive pre-employment supports including resume creation, interview prepping, tutoring and job club where peers learn about appropriate workplace behavior, dressing for success and more. Youths are also eligible for paid work experience internships, which is invaluable on a resume of a young person just getting started. Services include job search, placement support, and job coaching and follow-up services even after placement.
Community partners are critical to the program’s success. Gap® stores are a long-standing partner of the program, providing paid internship work experience and – equally important – positive role models and mentoring.
Paige is a former foster youth. She entered PRIDE’s program at the age of 17 without any previous work experience. She received coaching, job supports, and a paid internship at a local GapKids® store through PRIDE. There, she was lucky to find an enthusiastic mentor in her supervisor, Jen. Jen was equally impressed with Paige’s work ethic and positive attitude, referring to her as a “little sponge.” Her positive attitude rubbed off on customers whose children sought her out whenever they visited the mall. Jen would have gladly hired Paige on a permanent basis, but plans had already been made her return home.
Returning home often carries the risk of a setback as an individual leaves the program and their support systems. However, Paige took all of her experiences to heart and applied them to a new job at a local organic coffee and tea shop. She loves her new job, her co-workers, and her customers. She has found her place in the workplace, having built a solid foundation thanks to the Youth Services Program at PRIDE and great mentoring support.
How can you make a difference for foster and at-risk youth with disabilities?
- Look beyond a disability to ability – create work and mentoring opportunity in your workplace
- Support businesses that employ people with disabilities
- Donate to PRIDE Industries Foundation’s Youth Employment Services program so we can expand our program to others (click here)
- Spread the word – share this and any other success stories on PRIDE’s blog with your friends and family