Thriving families. Brighter futures.

Workforce Development Program

OUR WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT COLLABORATIVE (WFD) provides current and former foster youth with work skills and employment experience so they can secure and sustain meaningful jobs.

Young women who are parents when they age out of the foster care system have especially negative outcomes: lower educational attainment, fewer employment opportunities and lower salaries. Too often, they cannot support themselves or their children, putting them at high risk for homelessness and dependence on government assistance; 75% are not consistently employed in the four years after exiting foster care. This is a particularly hard-to-serve, low-income population that is desperately in need of work skills, work experience and permanent employment.

To serve the special needs of our clients, St. Anne’s is the lead agency in a 5-organization Transition-Age Youth Collaborative funded by the Carl & Roberta Deutsch and Conrad Hilton Foundations. The Collaborative is working with Columbia University’s Workplace Center to develop a curriculum designed to address the specific challenges of this population; the partnership will result in an evidence-based curriculum that will ultimately be made available to other organizations serving current and former foster youth.

The curriculum, currently in its second version, emphasizes workplace “soft” skills, e.g., interviewing, assertive communication, professional dress, career exploration. Also, young mothers receive paid, 200-hour internships that enable them to put the curriculum into practice while gaining workplace experience and skills. In addition, participants work one-on-one with workforce development specialists to identify short- and long-term goals and access the resources to attain them. The specialists also help young women manage workplace challenges and balance work with the competing obligations of motherhood and school. The specialists steer young women to educational or training programs that match their vocational interests and assist in the search for permanent jobs.

Crucial to the success of these young women, this program is offered within the context of St. Anne’s comprehensive services: safe, stable housing; high quality early childhood education; mental health counseling; and the various other life skills and supportive services that St. Anne’s provides. The workplace success of these moms helps create the infrastructure for the success of their children, breaking the cycle of poverty, homelessness and neglect that blighted their own young lives.

Jennifer was abandoned as a child and became a teen mother. Today she is working full-time while in college, studying to become a social worker. She is defying the odds.

75% of transition-age youth are not consistently employed in the four years after exiting foster care

Jennifer Wants to Give Back

“St. Anne’s changed my life big time.”

Jennifer emerged from the trauma of abandonment, homelessness and teen motherhood with a remarkable determination to help others find their way out of poverty.

When Jennifer became pregnant at age 13, her father called her a disgrace and moved other family members across the country. She was all alone. Jennifer’s daughter, Breanna, was born three months prematurely, and the hospital alerted child welfare. Finding a foster home for a young teen with an infant was very difficult, so Jennifer and Breanna had to separate. Jennifer took parenting classes and received her high school degree at age 16 to prove that she could care for her child. These efforts earned Jennifer reunification with Breanna.

At age 17, Jennifer was studying at East Los Angeles College and living in a foster placement with Breanna when her family returned. Her parents reunified with Jennifer. But soon after, her parents separated and moved out of town. Jennifer was homeless. Knowing the streets were no place for a toddler, she persuaded Breanna’s paternal grandmother to care for the girl. But no one would take in Jennifer. While continuing to attend college, Jennifer lived in the trains at the end of the Red Line. “It was quiet there. I could read my books for school,” she says.

When social workers followed up with Jennifer after the reunification, they learned of her plight and referred her to St. Anne’s Transitional Housing Program. At first, Jennifer was scared about entering St. Anne’s, but seeing an apartment convinced her. “I thought, I could study here. I’ve got a case manager who can help me. I can have my daughter live with me again,” recalls Jennifer.

“St. Anne’s changed my life big time,” she says. She especially liked the Workforce Development Program. “The workshops were so awesome! They would do mock interviews, résumés, and teach you how to speak with an employer.” After a paid internship as a receptionist, Jennifer secured her dream internship as an outreach counselor at Homeless Health Care Los Angeles. “My major is social work, so I love the thought that I can help someone else,” she says. “I like helping. I want to see smiling faces and hear people say ‘I did it.’”

Jennifer certainly “did it” for herself and Breanna. Now age 22, Jennifer graduated from St. Anne’s and has her own apartment. She has a full-time job and soon she will transfer to Cal State Los Angeles to complete her degree in social work.

Breanna, who attended St. Anne’s Bogen Early Learning Center, is entering first grade and thriving. “My daughter went through so much,” says Jennifer. “She was so shy and didn’t talk much. Now, she is happy child, she talks a lot, she isn’t scared.”

“St. Anne’s is a life-changing program,” Jennifer says. “I would love to give back to other girls who went through what I did.”

“St. Anne’s is a life-changing program,” Jennifer says. “I would love to give back to other girls who went through what I did.”


Sign up to hear about the latest great things at St. Anne's