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Kuehl Wants to Expand Internship Program for Former Foster Chilldren

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By Hector Gonzalez
Staff Writer

December 29, 2014 -- Santa Monica-area Supervisor Sheila Kuehl is challenging managers in all 88 cities in the county, as well as the heads of several regional agencies, to duplicate a successful county program that provides internships for former foster children.

Kuehl and Supervisor Michael Antonovich recently co-sponsored a motion directing the county’s chief executive office and the director of personnel to send the letters to the city managers urging them to establish “a foster youth career development program” similar to the county’s Career Development Intern Program.

The county program provides 12- to 14-month internships to emancipated foster adults who turn 18 and no longer are under the direct care of the county’s Department of Children and Family Services.

The internships, offered through many of the county’s departments, provide “youth with…a critical opportunity to gain skills needed to transition to full-time employment,” an attachment to the motion said.

The Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the motion at its Dec. 16 meeting.

“Los Angeles County has had a fairly extensive program like this for quite some time,” Joe Bellman, Kuehl’s spokesman, said Tuesday. “We’re not just admonishing these entities, but we’re also letting them know that we have a model that’s up and running that we can share with them if they’re so inclined.”

Letters also are being sent to personnel directors at school districts, the Metropolitan Transit Authority, the Southern California Air Quality Management District, the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, Metrolink, the Southern California Association of Governments, as well as the business community, according to the motion.     
“Basically, the letters say, ‘We’ve found success at the county and we want to spread that model, and we encourage you to develop that model in your own cities,” said Bellman.

According to the motion, county staff must track the progress of the letter-writing effort and report back to the Board of Supervisors in 30 days.

The letters, however, do not suggest how the various cities and agencies might fund foster youth internship programs.

“Everybody would be responsible for funding it,” said Bellman, who credits his own career with an unpaid internship while in college.

He added that the gains from such programs far surpass the financial investment.

“The idea here is to look at these youth, who don’t the family resources or support that luckier kids have, and say, ‘We want to create opportunities or them.’ We want to create job opportunities for kids who don’t have the avenues of support or the financial underpinnings and go the extra mile to help them find full-time jobs.”

Bellman said issues surrounding foster youth, both in and out of the county foster care system, are important to Kuehl, who was sworn in Dec. 1 as supervisor for the Third District after former Supervisor Zev Yarovslavky was termed out.

Two days after the Dec. 16 board meeting, Kuehl and her staff met for more than an hour with Philip Browning, director of the County Department of Children and Family Services.

The meeting “reflected the supervisor’s general interest and concern for foster youth in the broader sense,” Bellman said.

“This was the first of many (meetings), as we look deeply into the services we provide for our kids,” Kuehl wrote on her Facebook page. “The thousands of children in our foster care system are one of my highest priorities…”

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