Improving Disaster Relief Efforts for Foster Youth and Families in LA

Idea by Children Now

In recent years, major wildfires wreaked havoc on the Los Angeles community, which has been especially devastating for the children served by the child welfare system and their foster families. Children Now is aiming to improve access to essential resources and services for youth in foster care and their caregivers immediately following a disaster. This project will ensure that LA communities and the state are well-prepared to support foster youth and foster parents following a disaster.


Briefly tell us a story that demonstrates how your organization turns inspiration into impact.

California’s kids face very real structural barriers to their abilities to thrive. It is critical to tear down these barriers and provide the supports vulnerable children need to reach their full potentials. Children Now’s model was developed with the goal of transforming children’s advocacy by breaking down the siloes that exist in the field and creating a stronger, coordinated base of support for policies that can do just that.

When children are abused and neglected and cannot safely remain at home, they enter foster care and the state assumes the legal and moral obligation to ensure their safety, stability and success. To help them heal from the significant trauma they have experienced, these vulnerable children must be placed in stable family homes with nurturing caregivers and have access to critical supports and services. Far too often, however, they experience multiple placement changes, sometimes being placed in institutions, as well as barriers accessing the very supports they need to thrive. This can have lifelong impacts, leading to poor emotional, social and academic outcomes.

We use our whole-child model to get kids in foster care the supports they need. For example, lack of access to affordable child care often prevented caregivers, many of whom work, from opening their homes to our youngest foster children or led them to ask for the children in their care to be moved to a new home. In 2017, Children Now, working collaboratively with both child care and child welfare partners, successfully established the Emergency Child Care Bridge Program for Foster Children to provide emergency vouchers for foster families to immediately access child care, navigators to help families find long-term child care, and training for child care providers on meeting the needs of abused and neglected children.

The program has positively impacted families like Anne, Thomas and Gabriel. With Bridge Program support, Anne and Thomas secured child care for Gabriel soon after he was placed with them and continue working. Their Navigator helped them learn how to find long-term child care to meet Gabriel’s unique needs. Because the family was stabilized early on, they have bonded and are moving forward with adoption.

Which of the LIVE metrics will your submission impact?​​

Resilient communities

In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?​

County of Los Angeles

How will your project make LA the best place to LIVE?

The major wildfires that swept through Los Angeles County in recent years have had a significant impact on children and families involved with our state’s child welfare system. Foster homes and transitional housing units have been evacuated, damaged, and/or permanently destroyed, displacing foster children and parents. These children and families have struggled to have their basic needs met while they have been displaced, often lacking reliable access to housing, food, and clothing. Lastly, children and families have had to temporarily relocate far from their prior residences, forcing long and costly commutes to get to school, work, and appointments. While the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) responds to California disasters, their prolonged administrative process can take months to transition impacted families into long-term assistance programs, and too often youth and families must fend for themselves, without timely access to critical resources.

Given the inevitability of further large-scale natural disasters in the future, the State of California has a responsibility to take a leadership role in supporting community and system preparedness and ensuring that sufficient resources are immediately available to support disaster-impacted foster children and families. Over the next year, Children Now will help ensure that LA County is the best place to LIVE by being better prepared to support foster youth and their families during an emergency and post-disaster. This will be accomplished through these activities over the next year:

-Partnering with state, county, and local LA leaders as well as disaster experts to develop solutions to (1) strengthen support systems for foster children and families impacted by natural disasters; (2) finance proactive, community-level disaster planning; and (3) provide concrete resources and supports to meet the needs of foster children, youth, and families.

-Raise awareness in LA County about the impact of natural disasters on child welfare system-involved children, youth, and families and the urgent need to improve disaster planning as it relates to foster families, using communications tools such as newsletter updates, blog posts, presentations, and traditional and social media.

In what stage of innovation is this project?​

Lateral application (testing feasibility of a proven action/solution to a new issue or sector)

Please explain how you will define and measure success for your project.​

Children Now’s ultimate goal is to ensure LA foster children and youth have access to the supports, services, and resources they need to maintain appropriate placements, to thrive academically, and to stabilize following a natural disaster. Our key objective for this activation is to raise public and policymaker awareness about the impact of natural disasters on child welfare system-involved children, youth, and families in LA in order to strengthen disaster planning processes and improve the fiscal infrastructure to better address their needs following a disaster. For this project, we will measure our success by the following metrics:

- Number of policymakers representing LA that are educated about the post-disaster needs of foster children and families.

- Number of LA stakeholders and partners informed by Children Now on the post-disaster needs of foster children and families.

- Number of LA Children’s Movement organizational and individual members that are educated about the impact of natural disasters on children and families involved with the child welfare system.

- Production and distribution of communications materials on the impact of natural disasters on children and families involved in with the child welfare system.

- Estimated social media reach on impact of natural disasters on children and families involved with the child welfare system.