As we've been finishing the turkey leftovers, we’ve also had a busy few weeks meeting with lots of potential partners. It's been exciting and inspring to learn about different initatives in Los Angeles and to start to think about how we might come together to make an even bigger impact.
Securing strong partners is really important for The Academy Project (TAP) as we intend to take an “open-source” approach to our model, encouraging other interested parties to leverage their proven approaches in helping youth. We’re confident that creating partnerships with established organizations will not only enrich our students’ experiences, but that we can also help other organizations to achieve their aims too, by increasing their own depth and reach. And of course TAP will also benefit; from their experience, infrastructure and from the lessons they've learnt along the way.
A focus on classroom time will definitely be fundamental to achieving our goals. But we also recognize that for our students to be able to succeed academically, there are health and well-being needs that will also require due care and attention. These auxiliary services, to be provided as part of The Academy experience, need to be as well thought out and planned for as curriculum and teaching time. None more so than that of Therapeutic Services.
Which is why we are delighted to announce our partnership with A Home Within.
Why are therapeutic services so important for Foster Youth?
Most youth in foster care come with traumatic life experiences. By the very nature of being placed in the system, they will already be processing events such as abuse, neglect, homelessness, domestic violence, parental substance abuse and so on. Add to this being taken from their birth families without warning, without explanation, without choice. Then, at a time when reassurance, understanding and consistency is critical, foster youth in Los Angeles find themselves in a situation where they struggle to exert any direct control, with ever-changing placements at home and school, unpredictable contact with family members and a constantly revolving door of places, names and faces.
It’s no wonder that studies point to children in foster care being vulnerable to maladjustment and mental health issues, with greater risk of having psychological, social and developmental delays, as compared to children in the general population.
And unsurprisingly, this follows them into adulthood. A Northwest Alumni Study found that a disproportionate number of alumni foster youth had mental health disorders. They found that, within the 12 months prior to being interviewed:
54.4% of former foster youth were diagnosed with one or more mental health disorder, compared with 22% of the general population
25.2% suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a rate DOUBLE that of US War Veterans.
20.1% suffered from major depression
17.1% experienced social phobia.
Many experts in the field agree the conclusion is clear. As Dr Pecora, Managing Director of Research Services for Casey Family Programs and Professor for the University of Washington School of Social Work, summarizes, “recent research underscores the urgent need to improve the access and quality of health and mental health care services for the large numbers of children in foster care”.
How will this work within The Academy?
TAP was born from the principle of stability. We believe that by keeping school as a point of stability, we can significantly help foster children succeed educationally while providing them with the opportunity to form strong relationships with peers and caring adults, perhaps for the very first time.
This especially applies to those members of The Academy team that will be most intimately involved in helping our students to deal with the ghosts from their past, and prepare them to be stronger for the future that lies ahead: our therapists.
Which is why we are so thrilled by our growing partnership with A Home Within.
A Home Within
Founded in San Francisco in 1994 as a small network of like-minded therapists, A Home Within is the only national organization dedicated solely to meeting the emotional needs of foster youth.
Every day, through their national network of therapists, A Home Within provides psychotherapy to current and former foster youth, offering one healthy, stable relationship that these children know they can rely on. As a result, more than 79% of those that have been seen through the program show statistically significant reductions in anxiety, depression and dissociation, and many go on to stay in touch with their therapists through adolescence and into adulthood.
As research continued to demonstrate the healing power of relationships, the core team also kept vigilant to other ways in which A Home Within could help. As a result, they expanded their impact by educating and supporting other adults who interact with foster youth and similarly vulnerable populations via their program called Fostering Relationships, which offers an array of online trainings and real-world tools for relationship-based, trauma-informed care.
Dr. Wendy von Wiederhold, one of their very first therapists and now Director of Programs, shared, “We are very excited to be collaborating with The Academy Project. We have, and always will adhere to our core goal of providing 'one child, one therapist, for as long as it takes'. We're eager to begin the work of providing these services to foster youth through The Academy when they launch in 2016.”
Take a look at how A Home Within changes lives:
More stories are available on their YouTube Channel.
Watch this space for updates on our work together, as we work towards a launch of The Academy next year!