The Biddy Mason Charitable Foundation provides clothes, career services, and educational services for teens who are aging out of the foster care system.
By Megan Reed
Los Angeles County has over 30,000 children within the foster care system. Many of these children are relocated from one home to another throughout their childhood. Due to the lack of stability at home, these children are targets for prostitution, identify theft, and mental health challenges. These issues follow them into adulthood.
Annually, 3,500 children in Los Angeles County age out of the foster care system. After years of growing up in foster homes, many of these children enter adulthood with no career or educational plans.
This prompted First AME Church to create the Biddy Mason Charitable Foundation in 2012. Their mission is to provide quality service and support to current and former foster youth through innovative programs and collaborative initiatives with community partners.
The foundation will host their annual resource fair that helps foster care children bridge the gap to adulthood. This year’s event will take place on April 15 at The Allen House, which is across the street from the First AME Church.
“It’s important for people to understand that 30,000 kids, that is a huge number of kids to be displaced and not with their biological families,” said Jackie Braxton, Executive Director of the foundation. “It’s not possible for all of these families to be healed and for the children to go back home, but you have a tremendous number of youth who are out there floundering because they do not have mentoring, they do not have support, and they really feel that nobody cares about them. If you’re moved around five or six times in foster care, you don’t know anything about your family history, you don’t know anything about the health problems in your family, you’re just out there. So we do these types of events to give them a sense of community.”
This year a new component has been added to the fair called Career Corner. The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, Los Angeles Fire Department, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (which offers apprenticeship programs), and other organizations will be on hand.
“These are companies or organizations that offer opportunities for youth to come in at an entry level and work their way up,” Braxton said. “Many of the children in the foster care program may not go to college, and they may not be aware of other jobs that would offer them upward mobility.”
Colleges that have programs for youth will also be on hand.
“We had a kid here who wanted to transfer to a four-year university from a community college,” Braxton said. “He was having problems navigating that. There was a rep here from USC who was able to help him.”
At the fair, children will receive free clothes as well.
“Last year three young men came to the resource fair, and they had interviews that day,” Braxton said. “We were able to totally outfit them that day for their interviews.”
The foundation accepts clothes from the public, but only brand new clothing.
“If you’re in foster care, you’ve been given a fair amount of hand-me-downs during the course of your life.” Braxton said. “And everybody’s concept of what is used is not the same. So we only accept brand new clothing. But we do accept used handbags for the girls, which has been very popular.”