Helping Foster Care Survivors ‘Weather the Storms’
Anthony Pico was homeless, unemployed, and had aged out of the foster care system when he started seeing a therapist weekly from A Home Within.
Today, Pico is a nationally recognized keynote speaker on child welfare and a community engagement manager for a social care network that connects people with programs. He credits his therapist with helping him transition to “enjoying stability and happiness for the first time.”
“My therapist has been my anchor through this storm,” says Pico, a board member of A Home Within.
The national nonprofit was born nearly 30 years ago in San Francisco out of a recognition that foster youth need to have sustained, one-on-one weekly therapy sessions with a single licensed therapist, free from the limitations of insurance, cost, or the confusion of the public mental health care system. In addition to San Francisco, A Home Within maintains large chapters in Alameda County and Los Angeles.
“We’ve grown to 20 chapters in 11 states and have served thousands of young people but to this day, our home and our heart is here in the Bay Area,” says Reed Connell, the nonprofit’s president and executive director.
For foster youth who often bounce around from place to place, the concept of “home” is fraught and changeable.
“We are establishing lasting relationships for young people that transcend the many challenges and changes they go through,” Connell says.
Clients voluntarily request therapy, express their preferences, and, once matched, partner with their therapist to determine the goals and duration of therapy.
A Home Within serves foster youth as young as three years old and former foster youth through middle age. Most A Home Within clients, however, are young adults who have aged out of the foster care system and are no longer eligible to receive services.
The average “match” between client and therapist lasts three years, though many last much longer. The nonprofit has served some 1,800 clients in California since its inception.
“A Home Within is helping people who have already survived a lifetime of rough waters build on that experience and see the strengths they have now, rather than the things they never had,” Pico says.
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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