Older Youth in Care Thrive with Support from Local Families & Mentors

Top Quote Ventura County Children and Family Services’ Homes with Heart VC program needs additional families to step up and support older youth during their transition into independence. End Quote
  • Ventura, CA (1888PressRelease) January 28, 2022 - Elizabeth “Lizzy” Clews was 15 years old when, after multiple attempts to escape a toxic home life, she was placed in out-of-home care (formerly foster care). Without a stable home environment, Clews attended 13 different high schools leaving her feeling vastly disconnected. It was not until she was 17 and living in her second group home that Elizabeth met Damon, a mentor that completely changed the direction of her life. Now Elizabeth helps others in care.

    "Just having that one solid person that I knew was always going to be there really motivated me and gave me a sense of confidence and just a feeling like I deserved to be loved,” said Clews. “It felt so good to have this person that I thought was successful also see that same potential in me at various stages of my life.”

    Homes with Heart VC, a program of Ventura County Children and Family Services, is very actively seeking families in Ventura County that can open their hearts and homes to older youth in care like Lizzy. With over 250 older youth in care in Ventura County, Resource Families for older youth between the ages of 16-25 are in higher demand than ever before. These families have the opportunity to shape understanding and strengthen the older youth that are ready to begin their own lives.

    The situation is dire. Older transitioning youth have a 25% incarceration rate within two years of emancipation1, over 30% experience homelessness2, endure 30% food insecurity3, and less than 3% graduate college4, so families and mentors can really make a life-changing decision to help.

    Now 27, Elizabeth is just one of many former older youth in (foster) care that are now thriving thanks to local mentors and Resource Families. Lizzy is an advocate for current and former youth in care. She serves as a certified Educational Rights Holder, is a trauma-informed practices trainer with Ventura County Office of Education and facilitates workshops for caregivers and youth in out-of-home care through Kids & Families Together. A recent workshop titled Turning Dreams into Degrees focused on how caregivers can support their older youth in the transition to higher education. Elizabeth is also an advocate with the John Burton Foundation of Advocates for Youth Foundation advocating for policy implementation that specifically benefits current and former youth in care like herself. Currently in her last semester at Ventura College and a single mother of two, Elizabeth intends to transfer to UC Santa Cruz in the Fall of 2022 to earn a degree in history, obtain a teaching credential, and teach history at the high school or collegiate level. She also plans to stay active within the child welfare community for the rest of her life.

    “We need our older youth to go out into the world with that key to success -- knowing that they are loved and supported to lead healthy and productive lives,” said Jaci Johnson, Program Coordinator III at Ventura County Children and Family Services. “If you can offer a stable and nurturing home, and unwavering guidance to one of our incredible older youth, we urge you to reach out and consider stepping up to help. There are many that are wonderful kids.”

    To learn more about how you can get involved and help older youth in Ventura County, visit www.homeswithheartvc.org/tay.

    About Homes with Heart VC
    Homes with Heart VC is a progressive brand designed for Ventura County Children & Family Services. Recognized as a best practice leader statewide in the family recruitment and support component of child welfare, Ventura County Children & Family Services’ Homes with Heart VC was developed to increase the amount of loving resource families who are ready to take in children in need in Ventura County. This initiative provides resource families with ongoing support services, trauma-informed training, and mentorship to enhance the safety, permanency, and well-being of Ventura County’s youth and families.   

    Learn how Ventura County Children and Family Services’ Homes with Heart VC is making a difference throughout Ventura County, www.homeswithheartvc.org. 

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