By Gloria Rojas-Jakini and Hilda Sanchez.
Entering the Child Welfare System at age 15 after his mom was deported to Mexico, Angel is one of approximately 1,600 to 1,800 Foster Care youth who exit the system every month in Los Angeles County.
Today, Angel’s genuine smile reflects his successful journey and eagerness to leave a painful past behind. His desire is to reach greater goals in the future.
Left behind with no parental support in their lives, Angel and his three younger siblings lived with a relative. Confused by the separation, Angel began making poor choices, including joining a local gang. His actions soon resulted in negative contact with local law enforcement agencies, the Probation Department and the Child Welfare System, where ultimately he ended up residing in group homes.
In a moment of self-reflection, Angel remembered the values he learned from his mother and knew he did not like who and what he was becoming. He made a commitment to change his life. His siblings also inspired him to become a positive role model in their lives.
Angel left his old ways behind and began taking advantage of the many services offered by the Youth Self-Sufficiency (YSS) Project, a program supported by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Social Services (DPSS). Angel was one of 45 youth referred by a DCFS Social Worker to participate in the project in FY 2013-14.
The YSS program provides Foster Care and Probation youth in Los Angeles County with much needed employment skills to help them prepare for life outside the Child Welfare System through subsidized employment. Throughout his time in the program, Angel lived in an Independent Living Program (ILP) facility where he paid rent and trained to become a certified Collision Repair Specialist. After eleven months and 200 hours of subsidized employment services, Angel was hired permanently.
The program helped Angel exit the Child Welfare System, and he is now living as a productive member of his community and society. Due to the overall success of the YSS Project, continued funding has been allocated for FY 2015-16.
With a confident smile on his face, Angel also shared that through this process, he has completed his probation and is now free from having to report to his probation officer.
“Stop partying and getting involved with the wrong friends,” Angel shared with those who may be where he was some time ago. “You can do it too, no matter what your past looks like.”