Year in Review
At Stepping Forward LA, our mission is to empower youth aging out of the foster care system to transition successfully to adulthood and reach their fullest potential.
Like so many of our peers, 2020 tested our resilience. But we didn't just adapt – we innovated. We grew our programming, budget, partnerships, and commitment.
Now, we're stronger than ever.
We raised $170K online, exceeding our $100K campaign goal. We gained new partners, including several schools, and raised funds for our exciting new initiatives.
In response to the pandemic and other needs faced by young adults, we developed a set of integrated initiatives and partnerships to guide programming in 2021 and beyond.
We opened up avenues to reach youth in all segments of the foster care system, including foster family, kin and extended family, and guardian arrangements.
With support from the Carl & Roberta Deutsch Foundation, we developed processes to support and sustain our growing volunteer base. We enhanced data tracking, developed online training, diversified volunteer roles, and personalized the recruitment process.
We built a strong technology infrastructure – including a mobile app, internal evaluation database, and online trainings – to sustain virtual programming for years to come.
We established new partnerships with Antioch University, Cal State Los Angeles, and UCLA, engaging graduate students who are helping create curricula and program evaluation systems for our new initiatives.
We grew our team, bringing on new staff, hiring 10 former foster youth interns, and engaging a developer to bring our mobile app to life.
Last but not least, our staff assumed significant expansion in their responsibilities, demonstrating resilience in the face of so many challenges this year. Because of them, we stayed consistent for the young adults we serve.
We raised $382,133 from the following sources:
85% of funds raised went directly
to programs for young adults.
Funds allowed us to address their immediate needs, while strengthening our operations and building new systems for long-term success.
Responding to the Pandemic
While sustaining essential 1-1 support to current and former foster youth during this difficult time, we also:
Pivoted quickly to address immediate needs by:
Building a virtual infrastructure and adapting programs to ensure the health and safety of youth and volunteers
Repurposing office space to provide a drop-in center for youth
Delivering resources, food, activities, and other essential items
Visiting and delivering personalized holiday gifts to every young adult in our programs
Establishing new partnerships to improve and expand our services
Adjusted our budget accordingly by:
Shifting funding to address emergency needs
Increasing financial support for students by providing textbooks, laptops, technology, scholarships, and other essential items
Reducing office space and overhead, setting up our staff with home office environments
"I couldn't be more thankful to SFLA. I can't even remember the last time I received a gift for Christmas. Your kindness is unparalleled and will always be remembered in my heart. I look forward to a new year stepping forward with such incredible people by my side."
– Donta, young adult
More than just respond, we developed sustainable solutions.
Adapting quickly to meet urgent needs was important, but we didn't stop there. As everything changed in our environment, we focused inward and leveraged the strength of our vibrant community to reassess and think big picture.
Integrating the feedback and perspectives of our young adults, we developed a new service delivery model that makes us more sustainable in the face of external shifts, while providing opportunities to scale efficiently.
With several new initiatives, including a new mobile app and virtual community, we're ready for the next chapter.
& New Initiatives
In a new partnership with Los Angeles Room & Board, we welcomed the first 20 residents of the newly opened Opportunity House, a supportive living community for formerly foster and/or homeless students attending community college.
Read more about our initiative (link to website)
We hired and trained 10 exceptional Opportunity House students for a paid internship.
Informed by their own experiences with the foster care system, interns designed the framework and details of our new mobile app.
More than simply connect youth to resources, the app provides a robust library of educational video content – eventually produced by former foster youth themselves – that gives youth the tools to build self-sufficiency as they move into adulthood.
This app will function as our primary vehicle for service delivery moving forward.
Allowing us to reach a greater number of youth, it puts the power directly in their hands to chart their own course. With guidance from our ever-growing community of adult volunteers and former foster youth, we'll be developing young leaders.
Read more & donate here.
In response to a growing need, we launched a support program for pregnant and parenting young women, engaging 18 moms in just a few months.
We're expanding to reach 50 during 2021.
Read more & donate here.
We took our traditional group mentoring model to a new level, expanding our menu of volunteer experiences to match these new initiatives.
Volunteers delivered skill building workshops, engaged youth in healthy relationships, led social activities, and so much more.
Our volunteer program expansion was made possible through our partnership with Los Angeles Room & Board as well as generous funding from the Carl & Roberta Deutsch Foundation.
The individuals who made it all possible
Our staff were the stars of the show. They went above and beyond this year, making it possible for us to adapt and grow while staying lean.
Beth Ryan, Executive Director & Founder
Teffani Taylor, Program Coordinator
Tessani Taylor, Program Coordinator
Marvin Segundo, Program Associate
Sashauna Dent, Communication & Event Specialist
Rezi Perez, Event Associate
As everything shifted, our Board of Directors ramped up their time, energy, and commitment to our mission – including meeting online weekly during the pandemic to ensure we stayed strong.
We welcomed 2 new members who jumped in immediately and brought fresh energy and perspectives to the team.
With an incredible group of volunteers, we forged a new direction amidst so much uncertainty.
Thank you to everyone who volunteered with us in 2020:
Brawerman Elementary School West (3rd grade students)
Shannon and Stephen Gabor
Beth Kennedy Will
Windward Middle School (7th and 8th grade students)
Jamie Lehman, Jo Pessin and all For Goodness Cakes volunteer bakers
"To all the volunteers – thank you so, so much for everything you have done – for helping us find jobs, tutoring, all the resources, and any other way that we need you...You're always making everyone's day so much brighter."
– Kiana, young adult
With financial and other support, partners enabled us to weather the storm.
Foundation partners provided grants to fund our operations, new initiatives, and organizational enhancements.
We welcomed 8 new* foundation partners in 2020.
Allen Sackler Family Fund*
Carl and Roberta Deutsch Foundation
Carol Moss Foundation*
Colin Higgins Foundation
Elizabeth Hurlock Beckman Fund*
Jewish Community Foundation
LA COVID-19 Relief Fund*
Mark Wahlberg Youth Foundation*
Rotary Club of Los Angeles*
Sam Simon Charitable Giving Foundation*
Sheila Dave and Sherry Gold Foundation
S. Mark Taper Foundation
Program partners helped us reach more young adults, deliver new services, and strengthen our programs and processes.
We welcomed 7 new* program partners in 2020.
A Sense of Home
Cal State Los Angeles*
Court Appointed Special Advocates
Edelman Children's Court*
Los Angeles Room and Board*
Ready to Succeed LA*
Safe Place for Youth
Sheehan Adopt a Family Project*
Vista del Mar Child and Family Services
W Girls LA*
Every single dollar given by our individual donors made an impact.
Jen and Tim Hart
Jill and Paul Koplin
Joyce and Jeremy Richards
Shannon and Stephen Gabor
Susannah and Chris Henrikson
Jessica and Josh Nadel
Melissa Sheehan Clarkson
Dana and Stephen Sigoloff
Beth and Eddy Will
Harriet Zaretsky and Steve Henry
Clare and Chuck Conlon
Susie and Bruce Goren
Gaby and Rob Greenberg
Marla and Michael Kantor
Ray and Nola Spiro
Key Lessons & Takeaways
We learned how to leverage our strengths.
We developed ways to sustain the best features of our traditional programming, while adapting new formats that help young adults address their needs even when we can't support them face to face.
Embodying our philosophy that youth deserve to be empowered as the key decision-makers in their lives, our new app and virtual community will give even more agency to youth to engage with our resources, team, and community on their own time, wherever they are.
We learned how to quickly develop responsive initiatives.
We tapped the experience and expertise of our staff, young adults, and community to design and develop new partnerships and programming in light of external shifts. We now have a solid framework for doing this whenever we need or choose to pivot in the future.
We learned new ways to build capacity and increase organizational resilience.
We learned how to host a successful online fundraiser, how to utilize new technologies, and we refined our internal practices to better support organizational needs. We converted Advisory Council update meetings to be more interactive "working meetings" to optimize their time together, and leveraged the incredible power of our volunteer community in ways not previously possible.
As a result, we'll serve a greater number of youth, in a wider array of environments, going forward.
Our traditional, in-person program model had limited potential for growth without significantly expanding our operations. Now, with a strong foundation for virtual services, we are equipped with a sustainable way to reach more youth in all areas of the foster care system.