The Transformational Power of Therapy
A child comes into your life. Your response is an unqualified commitment to them – no matter what they say or whether they reject your advice. You stay, you listen, you build trust, and you move forward together.
For many California children who’ve experienced foster care, this kind of unqualified support is exactly what they receive from the volunteer clinical therapists affiliated with A Home Within, a national organization providing free, high-quality therapy to current or former foster youth.
When Mitchell Findley first heard of A Home Within, he was a teenager who had just aged out of foster care, learning to live an adult life after having been abruptly ejected from the system. Because of the raft of adverse experiences they have as children, including the trauma of familial dislocation, foster youth suffer from disproportionally high levels of psychological trauma, and Findley’s only experience with counseling was both impersonal and court-mandated.
But connecting with a therapist from A Home Within was a game-changer for Findley, now a senior planner for the San Francisco-based nonprofit Tipping Point Community.
“They asked me questions no one had asked me before,” he says. “There was no judgment.” By creating an ongoing relationship, his therapist offered Findley space to finally “process all the things I had not been processing.”
Begun around a kitchen table in San Francisco in 1994, this national collective of highly-trained professionals has committed to working with vulnerable youth for as long as they need it. In addition to being completely free, A Home Within helps clients find a therapist with whom they are aligned in terms of culture, language, race, or experience. The Oakland-based nonprofit has expanded to 11 states, and now serves more than 500 youth, including young people in San Francisco, Oakland, and Contra Costa County.
At the same time, Executive Director Reed Connell says, teletherapy has bloomed during the pandemic. “Being able to see your therapist without having to figure out how to get from Fremont up to Berkeley for an appointment has helped our young people weather the trauma and fear of the pandemic.”
Apart from creating easier access to therapy, better technology allows a better matching of youth and clinicians — whether by race, language, identity, or clinical approach. A Home Within is actively working to provide youth with choice regarding their volunteer therapist, and is connecting with a diverse range of dedicated volunteers. Nationally, 6% of psychologists identify as Latinx, and 4% identity as Black. By contrast, in California, A Home Within’s therapists are 19% Latinx and 29% Black.
The program is also transformational for therapists, who through A Home Within earn continuing education credits and participate in clinical consultation groups. For many, it is among their most satisfying therapeutic relationships.
COVID has made plain to everyone how fragile the social and emotional lives of young people are, few of whom are more vulnerable than those without stable homes or support systems.
“There isn’t a parent out there who doesn’t see the impact of isolation and social disruption on their children,” says Connell. “All of us now recognize that every young person needs and deserves support for their mental health.”
Executive Director: Reed Connell
With a mission to create and support lasting, caring relationships for children and youth in foster care, A Home Within identifies, recruits, trains, and supports a network of licensed therapists who each provide free, weekly, one-to-one therapy to a single foster youth “for as long as it takes.” For foster youth who often watch people move in and out of their lives, our model creates an anchor of support.
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For foster youth, whose access to mental health services is often short-term, episodic, or compulsory, the voluntary long-term one-on-one therapy provided by A Home Within’s therapists can be transformative. The May and Stanley Smith Charitable Trust has long supported A Home Within because it is one of the few organizations that matches foster youth with volunteer therapists who build long-term relationships with youth and commit to working with them for as long as they need. A Home Within is meeting a critical need that has only grown during the COVID pandemic and as mental health challenges continue to be among the top pandemic-related issues cited by youth and youth-serving organizations, A Home Within’s work is more important now than ever.
A Lifelong Ripple Effect
A Home Within seeks $500,000 to grow its staff and quadruple the number of current and former foster youth it serves in California to 260 over the next year.
Their individual, relationship-based therapy not only helps their clients “heal and learn to thrive,” but also has a ripple effect that radiates throughout the community, says Connell.
“Our young people talk about having healthier relationships with family, friends, and partners,” Connell says.
Donations to A Home Within help the organization recruit and support more therapists around the country, and provide them with clinical supervision, training and continuing education, recognition, and celebration – all of which combine to sustain and honor the commitment each volunteer makes.
May and Stanley Smith Charitable Trust
Walter S. Johnson Foundation
Sarnat-Hoffman Family Foundation
Sisters of St. Joseph Healthcare Foundation
In-N-Out Burger Foundation
The Green Foundation
Silicon Valley Community Foundation
The Louis and Harold Price Foundation
Renaissance Charitable Foundation
The Battery Foundation
Bella Vista Foundation
CASA organizations throughout California
Foster Care Research Group
at the University of San Francisco
11 California Family Foundations
Over 350 Individual Donors