2023 Grants Challenge

Peers supporting youth in foster care

Idea by Children Now

The Family Urgent Response System (FURS) ensures that children and youth who have spent time in foster care have access to trauma-informed supports whenever they need it, day or night, for any reason. LA County youth are advocating for peers with lived experience to be part of the FURS team that provides this vital support so children and youth feel they have an ally in critical moments. Children Now will partner with youth to ensure peer support is intentionally integrated into FURS to meet the needs of children and youth in foster 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?

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?

The Family Urgent Response System (FURS) launched in 2021 to ensure that children and youth (up to age 21) who have spent time in foster care have immediate access to trauma-informed supports through a 24/7 statewide hotline and an LA County-based mobile response team. However, calls from LA youth to FURS have been slow to come in. For many youth, their distrust of foster care can prevent them from feeling comfortable engaging with the resources available to support their wellbeing, such as FURS. To grow their trust and engagement in FURS, youth are calling for more peers with lived experience in foster care to be part of the FURS team. Support from peers can help children and youth feel heard and understood and give them a trusted ally during critical moments, encouraging them to make use of this vital resource. Increasing the use of FURS can contribute directly to improved health, education, housing, and employment outcomes for children and youth in the long run.

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

With support from LA2050, Children Now will continue to partner with youth-serving organizations and LA County youth who have spent time in foster care to work with LA County public agencies to enhance peer supports in FURS. Over the last two years, Children Now has been deeply involved in elevating youth voices in LA's implementation efforts to ensure this large-scale system meets the needs of children and youth with foster care experience, and we have been successful in ensuring needed improvements are made based on youth and caregiver feedback. At recent Children Now-facilitated implementation meetings and focus groups attended by close to 20 LA youth, youth have overwhelmingly voiced that FURS is wanted, needed, and appreciated, but supports provided by peers with lived experience in foster care must be intentionally incorporated to build youth trust and engagement in FURS. We will take this feedback directly to the public agencies responsible for FURS--the LA County Departments of Children and Family Services (DCFS), Mental Health (DMH), and Probation-and join with other community stakeholders to emphasize the need for peer supports as a priority area for improvement. Children Now will leverage its position as an advocate and partner in this space to elevate the direct asks of children and youth in foster care.

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

By deepening trust and thereby engagement in FURS, LA County will see improved outcomes across the board for the 18,000+ children and youth who have spent time in foster care. Research shows that many youth struggle emotionally, physically, and academically while in care and can continue to struggle with housing and employment into adulthood. On top of that, children and youth of color are disproportionately negatively impacted by the child welfare and juvenile justice systems. Our efforts to improve FURS are part of Children Now's mission to dismantle the systemic barriers that exist in child welfare, mental health, law enforcement, and juvenile justice that disproportionately affect children and youth of color. By ensuring safe, supportive connections to peers, FURS can help LA County children and youth in care achieve greater stability, more nurturing placements, and targeted health care that will help them thrive at home, in school, at work, and beyond.

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

This project continues Children Now's past success in engaging hundreds of youth and caregivers in the refinement of FURS implementation through direct meetings, focus groups, and surveys in partnership with youth-led organizations such as iFoster and California Youth Connection. This project will define success by the extent youth and youth-serving organizations engage in LA County FURS implementation efforts and collaborate to design, elevate, and actualize supports provided by peers with lived experience into this innovative resource. We will measure our success by the following metrics: - 15 youth and/or youth-serving organizations will participate in designing peer-provided supports for FURS - 15 youth and/or youth-serving organizations will engage in ongoing meetings with LA County public agencies and other stakeholders to elevate the importance of incorporating peer support into FURS and to advance implementation recommendations

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

Direct Impact: 15

Indirect Impact: 18,000