Describe your organization:
Voice Our Independent Choices for Emancipation Support (VOICES), a nonprofit dedicated to supporting and empowering foster youth in their transition to independence, was founded in Napa County in 2005 as a one-stop community and resource center. Three years later, the model was replicated in Sonoma County, and since then, VOICES programs have also expanded into Santa Clara and Monterey counties.
VOICES Sonoma is committed to authentic youth engagement and providing youth with the support necessary for achieving successful outcomes. VOICES utilizes an innovative Youth Engagement Model focused on empowering each youth, integrating resources and services, and working with the entire community to address the barriers youth face as they leave various systems of care. The youth of VOICES are not only recipients of social services, they are active leaders in supporting their peers, guiding the evolving vision of program delivery at each site and ensuring that the authentic voice of youth is heard throughout the County.
Tell us a little bit about yourself:
I am passionate about the work I have the opportunity to do every day. I have worked in the youth development field for over 16 years and consider it my mission to ensure that young leaders in our community are listened to and respected. Every day I have the opportunity to experience how amazing and resilient the human spirit truly is. I am passionate about supporting youth in learning how to care of themselves, use their voices to change the world, and overcome challenges to realize the future they dream of. I value working in partnership with others to come up with ways to create changes that will make our community better for our future generations.
What is your role in the organization?
Director VOICES Youth Center
What achievement are you most proud of?
In 2014 VOICES received a three-year grant from the Walter S. Johnson Foundation to convene Sonoma County transition age foster youth as stakeholders and experts to identify and address systemic, county-level barriers facing foster youth in their transition to independence. Through their meetings and research, the Youth Cohort developed and refined four recommendations for transforming outcomes for foster youth in Sonoma County in the areas of independent living, housing, health and wellness, education and employment. Each of these recommendations is both critically impactful and eminently achievable. These recommendations were released in May of 2016 in a published report titled Changing the Story; Recommendations to Improve Services for Transition Aged Youth in Sonoma County.
In order to implement the recommendations put forward by the Youth Cohort, a group of Sonoma County leaders, all of whom support the health and well being of transition-age foster youth, have formed the Sonoma County Coalition for Foster Youth (SCCFF). The SCCFY brings together the expertise, passion and influence necessary to implement the recommendations and make the necessary changes to the foster care system in Sonoma County.
What is your biggest challenge today?
VOICES youth are affected by past trauma in numerous ways, including a high incidence of homelessness, incarceration, unemployment, substance abuse, and mental illness. Former foster youth suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder at 2 times the level of U.S. war veterans. Our biggest challenge is helping youth connect with appropriate, affordable mental health services to help address these traumas. Limitations on Medi-Cal supported treatment, lack of mental health providers and the stigma associated with reaching out for health all lead to many youth not receiving the help they need in order to overcome past trauma and excel in their lives.
DIRECTOR Youth Center
VOICE OUR INDEPENDENT CHOICES FOR EMANCIPATION SUPPORT (VOICES)
VOICES SONOMA: 714 MENDOCINO AVENUE, SANTA ROSA, 95401
780 LINCOLN AVENUE NAPA, 94558
AWARD CATEGORY: EXECUTIVE LEADERSHIP
2005 – 2008, STAFF SERVICES MANAGER
STATE OF CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF COMMUNITY SERVICES
2008 – 2012, DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT
CALIFORNIA HUMAN DEVELOPMENT
2012 – PRESENT, DIRECTOR
VOICES YOUTH CENTER
EDUCATION: MPPA, 2006 SACRAMENTO STATE UNIVERSITY
BA, 2002 UC DAVIS