2022 Grants Challenge

Empowering LA's foster and system-involved youth to become all they can be in LA and beyond

Meet system-impacted individuals exactly where they are and provide holistic case management services and pro-social activities to become trusted sources for support and care


What is the primary issue area that your application will impact?

Support for Foster and Systems-Impacted Youth

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

Central LA

East LA

San Gabriel Valley

San Fernando Valley

South LA

County of Los Angeles

In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?

Expand existing project, program, or initiative

What is your understanding of the issue that you are seeking to address?

Foster and system impacted youth are disproportionately people of color or LGBTQ+. Youth who come into contact with the justice system or are at risk for arrest and incarceration in Los Angeles County face numerous challenges, including educational disengagement, social isolation, unemployment, homelessness, and complex medical health and/or behavioral/mental health conditions. Leading research on adolescent brain development and effective interventions for Youth highlights the importance of holistic, developmentally appropriate, trauma-responsive, community-based programming that is designed to respond to the strengths, interests, and experiences of each Youth. Our 3-decades of experience has allowed us to obtain first-hand knowledge on how to work with this population and work with their various traumas. These youth experience higher rates of high school dropouts, increased suicide, substance abuse, chronic disease, gang involvement, shorter lifespans, and other negative outcomes.

Describe the project, program, or initiative this grant will support to address the issue.

InsideOUT Writers (IOW) offers creative writing classes inside LA County’s juvenile halls. We are one of the first programs to be offered inside LA County’s juvenile hall. Weekly classes are conducted by Teaching Artists in a trauma-informed, strengths-based curriculum, focused on positive youth development, and promote resilience and healing in a culturally responsive way. Classes are reflective in nature and focus on the youth’s past, present, and future and encourage original writing that helps them speak their truths in authentic ways. The Teaching Artist also serves as a positive role model and mentor and assists with transitioning from Juvenile Hall to IOW. We find that youth with severe trauma, neglect, and other ACEs related issues benefit from our classes since it allows them to be vulnerable and learn positive ways to advocate and express themselves. Our Alumni Program provides holistic re-entry services for youth returning home from incarceration. We provide counseling, mentorship, workforce development, academic re-engagement, field trips, and other services as well. Additionally, we provide at-risk youth diversion services that includes: school-related goals, civic engagement, social justice, behavioral health, recreational activities, creative writing, and work-related placement.

Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.

Since 1996, InsideOUT Writers has been positively impacting the lives of over 27,000 youth impacted by the foster or juvenile justice system to become better versions of themselves or to discover their many talents. We are an intervention program that helps youth deal with their anger challenges in a healthier, more prosocial way. Our goal with them participating in our various programs is to become high functioning members of society and to contribute to this growing and thriving city. Many of our youth and young adults use their story to help others like them, become public policy change advocates in local, state and federal campaigns, go to school to become social workers or other chosen fields. We are giving youth a second, third, fourth, and even fifth chance to become the best version of themselves and productive and contributing citizens in their communities.

What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?

Our Writing Program inside the Juvenile Halls is currently servicing around 170+ youth. We know our program works because of the number of participants, since our program is purely voluntary for them to attend. Furthermore, the quality of their improved writings, and their desire to have their writings published in our quarterly InDepth Journal are just a few examples of the measure of success. We host an annual Writers’ Retreat, which provides youth an environment to showcase their original writings. Additionally, youth fill out a Pre/Post Survey that provides insights on whether their needs and services have been met. Moreover, each youth is provided with an Individualized Action Plan that includes their goals for completing high school and advancing to college.

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?

Direct Impact: 173

Indirect Impact: 300