PBS SoCal Launches “To Foster Change” – A Public Awareness Initiative About Southern California’s Foster Youth

Foster Change
LOS ANGELES, Nov. 30, 2016 – PBS SoCal today launched “To Foster Change” – a public media initiative aimed at fostering change in the realities and life outcomes for Southern California’s foster youth. The campaign launches with three public awareness spots in which foster youth tell their own real stories of challenge, hope and success. Viewers are invited to visit tofosterchange.org, where they’ll find more inspiring stories about our community’s foster youth, learn more about the important work that’s being done in the foster youth community – and to find out how they can get involved in a variety of very simple ways. The campaign was made possible in part by a three-year $1.7 million grant by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation.

“Our mission is to use the power of public media to highlight important stories that build understanding of critical issues, and spark dialog and progress,” said Andrew Russell, President and CEO of PBS SoCal. “This initiative builds on our experience addressing key issues in our neighborhoods – such as school readiness among young children through our Ready to Learn initiative.”

The “To Foster Change” initiative is comprised of three core activities:
Community conversations: Hosted conversations between stakeholders, service providers, schools, agencies and leaders in the foster community to discuss key issues, generate ideas and motivate collaborations. The discussions include a focus on how public media storytelling can build awareness and understanding of the work being done for foster youth.
Content: Original documentaries, PSAs, web series and social content will raise awareness across a broad audience about the issues and needs of this vulnerable population of children. Broadcast and digital content will also reveal and reinforce the valuable contributions and accomplishments of those working with foster youth in this region, showing viewers that every little success counts. The community conversations will help identify priorities, key themes, partners and important stories for our content creation efforts.
Direct Youth Engagement: PBS SoCal will offer transition age foster youth – those who are approaching the legal age of 18 – a place to express themselves through storytelling. Mentorship, internships and other workforce development opportunities – all valuable in a city where 1 in 7 jobs are in the creative industries – will also be offered.

Three public awareness spots will air on PBS SoCal KOCE during prime-time this week, and will be viewable at tofosterchange.org/meet. They tell three very different – and inspiring – stories about foster youth in Southern California, in their own words:

Jessie” – Airs Wednesday, November 30, at 9:28 p.m.
Jessie is a young man and former foster child who channeled his childhood love for coloring books into a career as an abstract art muralist. “As a young kid, my favorite thing to do was coloring books. It wasn’t until high school that I got into graffiti art. That was my way of expressing myself and getting rid of all the frustration and emotions I had of dealing with all the dysfunction in the house. Murals that I do in different areas – hopefully there’s someone young or old that sees it and gets inspired by it in some way shape or form. I’m blessed to create something beautiful that derives from pain – and share it with the world,” Jessie says.

Shelita” – Airs Thursday, December 1 at 9:57 p.m.
Shelita is a singer and former foster youth who, as a child, drew inspiration from Maya Angelou’s book “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.” “Instead of having parental figures to help me choose and guide my future, I had to create my own future. And I had to create my own family. It doesn’t matter what kind of family you’re born into. It matters who you become and what you choose to become,” says Shelita.

Calvin” – Airs Saturday, December 3 at 8:28 p.m.
Calvin is a single gay man who lovingly adopted two young brothers, whom he fostered for 16 months. “There are so many kids out there that really need a home. And I think the biggest misconception is that there’s something wrong with these kids. My boys have challenges, but guess what? So do other kids. It’s our job as parents to figure out those challenges and help them out. It’s that simple,” Calvin says.

“We have been so inspired by the foster youth we’ve spoken to over the last several months. So we want to change the narrative about the foster youth community by telling their stories in authentic ways,” said Jamie Annunzio Myers, COO and VP of Education and Community Engagement at PBS SoCal. “By convening the community to find creative solutions – plus providing transition-age foster youth with tools that will help them in life, school and career – we hope to help these amazing young people thrive.”

A study by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation discovered that in the first four years after leaving the foster care system, one in three foster youth receive food stamps, less than half report any earnings, and only 25 percent have consistent employment. That is due in large part to the fact that many foster youth are abandoned a second time when they age out of the system equipped with few of the personal, educational or vocational resources they need to succeed in the next step of their lives. However, research from Measuring Resiliency and Its Predictors in Recently Discharged Foster Youth indicates the availability of social support, having independent living skills competence, and maintaining contact with former foster parents all provide foster youth with resiliency that helps them navigate the challenges necessary to succeed in school, life and career. “To Foster Change” will include a focus on tools that ultimately ease that transition – resulting in change.

About PBS SoCal KOCE
PBS SoCal KOCE is home to PBS for Greater Los Angeles and Southern California, dedicated to fostering a love of learning, culture and community using the power of public media. We deliver the full schedule of high-quality PBS programs, plus content that is for, about and by the people of Southern California. We make our content available for free through three broadcast channels – PBS SoCal 1, PBS SoCal 2 and PBS SoCal World – and online at pbssocal.org. And we reach deep into the community through partnerships, events and grassroots outreach, providing early education resources and access to a broad array of arts and culture experiences. PBS SoCal has offices in Downtown LA, Century City and Costa Mesa. Learn more at pbssocal.org and follow PBS SoCal on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram.

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Media Contacts:
Jennifer Vides

Stacy Shaffer