A Home Within – 30 Years of Offering Free Life-Changing Therapy to Foster Youth
As Joymara Coleman, a former foster youth, got ready to start college, she wanted a therapist in the Bay Area with the skills to deal with her complex trauma to help her withstand the triggers she’d surely encounter in a challenging academic environment.
A former foster youth peer suggested Coleman try A Home Within, an Oakland-based nonprofit with 30 years of experience connecting high-quality therapists with youth currently or formerly in foster care.
The founders of A Home Within were keenly aware of the inadequate availability of mental health services for young people in foster care. To address that, A Home Within offers free, relationship-based therapy for an indefinite amount of time.
“We approach the therapy with the understanding that youth who’ve been in foster care have experienced very serious trauma that was compounded by the dysfunction of the system,” Reed Connell, the organization’s executive director, says.
In the three decades since A Home Within was established, the organization has cultivated a community of therapists dedicated not only to supporting the mental well-being of foster youth but also to mentoring other therapists as they hone their skills in the best practices of working with youth who have significant histories of trauma.
A Home Within further supports volunteer therapists by offering those early in their careers access to numerous professional development resources, including continuing education, high-quality consultations, and the opportunity to engage with a robust network of mental health providers. Additionally, A Home Within empowers new therapists with tools to curate their own private practice by offering members access to a “private practice start-up” guide and ongoing support in becoming a sole proprietor.
Connell says their own research findings show statistically significant improvements in symptoms among young people participating in the program.
For Coleman, the care, trust, and lifelong commitment the therapists at A Home Within offered was exactly what she needed, and she jumped at the opportunity. Coleman was tired of the merry-go-round of overworked, unfocused, disconnected therapists she’d had over the years.
Now 33, Coleman is still loving her A Home Within therapist, a Black woman who Coleman says “speaks my language, accurately interprets my non-verbal communication styles, isn’t intimidated by my demeanor, and understands my dialect, tonality, and the many other nuances of my Blackness.”
“The work that I am doing in therapy has truly helped me come into a better relationship with myself and has created the space for me to do the lifting that I need to do to meet my goals,” Coleman says.
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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When I became an AHW volunteer, I had lingering doubts — I wondered if my contribution was actually necessary or impactful. Now, I have discovered working outside of the mental health system liberates and expands my ability to provide health care rather than focus primarily on symptom reduction for financial reimbursement. Contributing and responding to a new health care model has inspired and revealed the benefits of whole person interventions.
Cheers to Another 30 Years of Extraordinary Therapy
In celebration of the upcoming 30th anniversary of the founding of A Home Within, the organization seeks to raise $300,000 to help secure decades more free high-quality therapy for foster youth.
The funding will allow the nonprofit to expand its community of therapists even further while also investing in a diverse mental health workforce by offering more training and mentorship for early-career therapists of color.
“We need your support to have another extraordinary 30 years and help thousands more foster youth,” says Executive Director Reed Connell.
May and Stanley Smith Charitable Trust
Sarnat-Hoffman Family Foundation
In-N-Out Burger Foundation
Glass Half Full Foundation
Mental Insight Foundation
The Louis and Harold Price
Foster Care Research Group at the
University of San Francisco
11 California Family Foundations
Over 350 Individual Donors