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In Santa Clara County there are any- where from 1124 to 2000 foster youth, depending on how you do the counting. “The population is pretty fluid, where youth go in and out of foster care,” he said. Any youth who was in an out-of- home placement is federally defined as a foster youth, and is eligible for “pretty substantial federal financial aid for college.” This is important, he said. Even if a student was only in foster care at age 15 for a short spell and found place- ment with a relative and the case was closed, “they’ve still suffered the trauma. They’re still subject to a lot of the same poor outcomes,” he explained. Across Santa Clara County, the on- time graduation rate for high school foster youth is an average of 41 percent, he said. However, “Youth in our program are over 80 percent,” he said. From 2011 to 2015, TeenForce’s focus on foster youth went from 10 percent to 64 percent. They expanded their efforts from Los Gatos to San Jose, and eventually Morgan Hill. In 2017, they relocated to Gilroy where they also merged with the SVCF into one big collaborative organization. “We now serve the whole county,” Hogan said. “And we became 100 percent focused on foster youth.” However, they quickly discovered that getting foster youth just any job was not good enough for their mission. “Most of the foster youth we were Written By Jordan Rosenfeld putting to work in those minimum wage jobs were young adults who had aged out and were really struggling,” he said. organization shifted, he said, thanks hen John Hogan left the Many of these kids were homeless or mortgage industry and began to Elise Cutini, CEO of Silicon Valley nearly homeless. “So the idea was that Children’s Fund (SVCF)—with whom to work on his MBA at Santa we needed to begin working with them TeenForce has now merged. She intro- Clara University, he was startled to learn duced him to a particularly underserved earlier to prevent or cut-off the supply that the number of teens in the work of 19-year-old homeless former foster force had declined over the past 50 years. segment of youth: foster youth. youth,” he said. Foster youth face significant barriers This sparked his interest in helping This is when they partnered with encourage teen employment. He launched due to inconsistent or absent support the SVCF to create STEM training, networks, instability of their home life, his organization TeenForce in 2010, to professional development training, and and, often, traumatic experiences. Only help streamline the connection between added professional STEM internships businesses and teenagers, acting as a non- 3 percent of foster youth graduate from college, Hogan explained, and 75 percent to high school foster youth “to begin to profit staffing agency to help hire these build these habits and experiences in of them have very little, if any, work youth. high school.” By 2011, however, the mission of the experience by the age of 18. Nonprofit Organization Helps Foster Youth Find Work W 108 GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2018