More Than Two Decades of Supporting Transition-Age Foster Youth on their Journey to Independence

As graduate students attending the University of California at Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy, Amy Lemley and Deanne Pearn were struck by how many young people who grew up in foster care faced intense challenges after aging out of care, including poverty and homelessness. With a small grant in hand, they were inspired to help break the cycle of poverty for these vulnerable youth and launched First Place for Youth, the first organization in Northern California exclusively dedicated to addressing the lack of affordable housing and resources for foster youth who had exited foster care.

2021

A Busy Year in Review

Welcoming a New Chief Executive Officer

In fall of 2021, we were proud to welcome our new CEO, Thomas Lee.

Cutting Edge Research

In March 2021, we published Raising the Bar, our Research and Policy brief that shares new research on extended foster care and policy recommendations to improve outcomes and long-term success factors for young adults.

Information & Knowledge Sharing

In August and November, we gathered panels of expert partners to discuss key learnings from the brief in webinars attended by hundreds of providers, researchers, policy makers, and funders.

Digging in During the Pandemic

First Place continued to navigate the impacts of COVID-19 with a hybrid virtual and in-person work and program service structure.

New Program Offerings

First Place expanded program offerings in six counties to include apprentice and pre-apprenticeship programs and targeted post-secondary education coaching.

Launching Equity-driven Technology

First Place launched our innovative technology platform, the Youth Roadmap Tool, in all six California Counties. This technology stands to illuminate the critical role of individualized services to promote foster youth’s long-term self-sufficiency.

2020

The Pandemic Pivot

Staff take rapid action to address the immediate needs of young people with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, including providing computers and supplemental stipends for groceries and delivering personal health and safety supplies. The move to virtual workshop programs and one-on-one support with frequent texts and video calls helps our participants keep moving towards their goals.

Other highlights

First Place celebrates anniversaries among three regional offices: five years in Santa Clara County, 10 years in Los Angeles, and 15 years in Contra Costa County.

2019

New Partnerships, New Funding & New Technology to Support Foster Youth

Youth in Cincinnati enroll in My First Place™ thanks to a partnership with the Greenlight Fund, Hamilton County Jobs and Family Services, and New Path (formerly St. Joseph’s Orphanage).

The iLearning System launches (since renamed the Youth Roadmap Tool). The system leverages data to better identify effective interventions and to individualize suggested supports for youth based on their unique circumstances and characteristics.

Success in Fundraising for New Campaigns

After four years, the Ready to Launch Campaign closes at $16.4 million raised from more than 1,600 donors.

DEI Initiatives Take Shape

First Place launches a diversity, equity, and inclusion initiative, beginning with the selection of a Core Equity Team (CET) that shapes organization-wide discussions of challenges, prejudices, and inequities among individuals, groups, communities, and systems.

2018

Growing Programs, Partnerships & More!

My First Place™ Expands to New York

The My First Place™ Network expands to New York, partnering with The Children’s Village as our newest partner.

Partnerships Bring Programs to Mississippi

First Place partners with the Jim Casey Youth Opportunity Initiative and the Mississippi State Department of Child Protective Services to bring programs to Mississippi.

New Service Sites

A new housing partnership in Santa Monica establishes a fourth Los Angeles County service site.

20 Years & New Milestones

We mark our 20th year in operation with housing for 700 young adults.

$1M Grant from United Airlines

United Airlines invests in our Los Angeles programs with a $1 Million grant and on-going career exploration opportunities for participants.

Partnerships Across the Country

FPFY partners with Hopewell in Massachusetts to bring the My First Place™ program to youth in need.

2017

Expanding State & National Impact

First Place’s national agenda takes a step forward with a Massachusetts partnership to run the My First Place™ Program with Hopewell, Inc. through the My First Place™ Affiliate Network.

CA Housing Improvements

New housing partnerships in San Francisco and Los Angeles expand our ability to connect youth with long-term affordable housing and on-site services.

Ready to Launch Realizes Funding Success

With more than $10 million raised in donations and pledges, the Ready to Launch campaign grows to a $15 million goal.

2016

The Year of Exciting “New” Wins!

The 50 Fund (part of Super Bowl 50 taking place in Santa Clara) recognizes First Place as one of the organizations working to “change the game” in the Bay Area, and awards $500,000 for expansion in Santa Clara County.

New Campaigns, New Goals

The Ready to Launch growth campaign begins with a goal of $10 million.

New Wins

The first two youth in our Santa Clara County program move from homelessness to stable housing.

2015

Expansion, Collaboration, & Celebration

Double Capacity with New Location

A collaboration with Art + Practice allows First Place to open a second Los Angeles office, effectively doubling the youth we can serve in Southern California.

Extra Support Through Collaboration

A new partnership with Alameda Point Collaborative allows us to provide additional supervision and guidance to our most marginalized youth at a new single-site housing location in Alameda.

18 Years Celebrity Support Campaign

First Place recruits NFL stars and other celebrities to celebrate our 18th birthday with the #WhenIWas18 campaign designed to raise awareness of the unique challenges and concerns foster youth face as they become adults.

2013-2014

A Growing Organization with a Growing List of Services

First Place expands support and services to transition-age youth in San Francisco, assuming management of the county’s Independent Living Skills Program and beginning a service partnership at Mercy Housing’s Ocean Avenue Apartments.

Other Highlights

First Place runs an operation budget of over $15 million.

2012

Developing Evaluation Models to Better Understand What’s Working; Opening Up New Opportunities for Youth

Early evidence of efficacy, fidelity, and adaptability come out in the results from the My First Place™ formative evaluation as well as positive outcomes in education, employment, housing, and healthy living that may be traced to core elements of the model.

Partnering to Develop Career Pathways

First Place partners with the James Irvine Foundation to pilot a healthcare Career Pathways program in Alameda County.

Solano County ILSP Program

First Place assumes management of the Independent Living Skills Program in Solano County, allowing us to begin serving youth at age 16.

2011

Growing Into Bigger Shoes & Gaining Recognition for Developing Models that Deliver Lasting Change

First Place receives a $3 million pilot grant from the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority to expand our capacity to serve more youth and train providers on our model.

New Campaigns, New Goals

400 youth are housed through My First Place.

New Website

The National Alliance to End Homelessness recognizes First Place as a best-practice model for creating positive, lasting outcomes for youth at risk of homelessness.

2010

Bringing More Services to More Locations As Extended Foster Care Goes Statewide

After seeing the high need for services in Southern California, First Place expands beyond the San Francisco Bay Area, opening a fifth program office in Los Angeles.

State-wide Wins for Foster Youth

AB 12 is signed into law, creating a statewide extended foster care system for youth up to 21 years of age.

Evaluating Impact

Public/Private Ventures begins an external evaluation of the My First Place™ program to determine efficacy and impact.

2009

Expansion, Collaboration, & Celebration

Policy Work to Drive Systems Change

First Place focuses on shaping policies to benefit transition-age youth, successfully petitioning Oakland to specifically earmark for youth, a portion of funds designated for the homeless and working closely with state legislators to extend foster care to age 21 (AB 12).

More Youth Housing Delivered

First Place for Youth is able to support housing for 295 youth — a new milestone.

2008

Affordable Housing, Extended Care Legislation, & More!

First Place and Satellite Affordable Housing Associates partner to open the Madison Apartments in downtown Oakland. The complex sets aside 20 of the 79 units for First Place participants to live in permanently affordable housing with onsite services.

Policy Wins for Foster Youth

President George W. Bush signs legislation advocated for by First Place to include federal funding for states that extend foster care eligibility beyond age 18 (Fostering Connections to Success Act).

Growth Continues

First Place’s annual operating budget reaches $5.9 million, with 240 youth receiving housing, over 900 served in total.

2007

Policy Work and Data Work Expand, As Does Our Footprint

Sam Cobbs testifies before Congress in support of federal legislation that would extend foster care to age 21.

Partnering to Develop Career Pathways

First Place opens a fourth program office in Solano County

Embracing Technology to Build Evidence

The organization invests in a performance management database to help track outcomes and build evidence of effective practice

2006

Aligning with the Mission & Rebranding to Reflect Our Vision

Recognizing that the mission is further reaching than the “start-up” costs of housing, we drop “fund” from our name and officially rebrand as First Place for Youth

  • More Youth Housing Delivered
    More than 120 young people benefit from supportive housing.
  • Meeting Goals & Needs
    A $2 million dollar budget and a staff of 25 allow First Place to achieve strategic goals ahead of schedule.

2005

The Beginning of Big Things At First Place for Youth

Sam Cobbs joins First Place as Executive Director. His 12-year term sees First Place through a period of significant and sustained growth.

More Youth Housing Delivered

70 youth housed.

County Expansion

A third program office opens and we begin serving Contra Costa County.

2004

Implementation & Expansion

THP-Plus Implementation

First Place acts as a key partner in Alameda County’s implementation of THP-Plus housing services for former foster youth.

Campaign Milestone

Year One of a three-year expansion campaign comes to a successful conclusion.

More Youth Housing Delivered

50 youth housed.

18 Member Agencies

The Foster Youth Alliance becomes an independently operated organization with 18 member agencies.

2003

Learning More, Serving More

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recognizes our First Foundation program for its innovation and effectiveness, selecting it as one of 20 “best practice” programs in the country.

Second SF Office & A Growing Team

First Place opens a second program office in San Francisco with 17 members on staff.

Supported Housing Program Grows

Supported Housing Program houses 45 youth annually.

A Milestone for New Housing

100 young adults move into housing.

Awards & Recognition

First Place receives Manhattan Social Entrepreneurship Award.

2002

Serving More Youth and Gaining Momentum

Thirty young people are enrolled in First Place’s housing program, and approximately 300 receive skill-building assistance and resource referrals from First Place through the Emancipation Training Center and the Alameda County Foster Youth Alliance.

Doubling Budget to Double Our Potential

Budget of $1.1 million, nearly doubling from previous years.

Awards & Recognition

First Place receives a three-year Ashoka Social Entrepreneurship Award.

2001

Growing Into Bigger Shoes & Gaining Recognition for Developing Models that Deliver Lasting Change

First Place is a key participant in the development of California’s sustainable funding source for housing transition-age foster youth (Transitional Housing Placement-Plus).

A Housing Milestone

First cohort of Supported Housing Program participants graduates from program.

New Training Location

The Emancipation Training Center (later First Steps Center) opens in downtown Oakland.

Peter Haas Community Service Award

First Place receives University of California Peter Haas Community Service Award.

A Growing Budget

Budget of $596,000.

2000

Education, Housing, and Organizational Growth Mark The Millennium

First Place expands services to include the Emancipation Specialist Program (later First Foundation) to focus on helping foster youth complete high school on time through intensive case management support.

Growing Housing

10 youth housed.

Making it Official

First Place is granted independent non-profit status by the IRS.

Growing Budget & Team

With a budget of $255,000, First Place grows to eight staff members.

1999

The Early Years

Learning & Improving

Based on first-year results, First Place shifts from one-time micro-loans to cover move-in costs and long-term subsidized supportive housing, allowing youth to gradually assume rental expenses at the end of a two-year program.

Kiana is the first youth to move into housing under the program.

Making Moves

Headquarters relocates from Berkeley to downtown Oakland.

Growing Programming

First Place launches a second program, the Alameda County Foster Youth Alliance.

A Small but Mighty Team

Budget of $95,000 supports 3 staff members.

1998

An Idea Takes Shape In the World of Foster Care

The First Place Fund for Youth launches on June 1. Initially the program provides a financial literacy course and one-time micro-loans to cover first and last months’ rent.

Creating a Space

The organization is housed in the adjunct faculty office at the Goldman School through the summer and then moves into Berkeley offices.

The Work Begins

Four former foster youth — Michelle, Faryaz, Regina, and Anthony — enroll in First Place’s financial literacy course.

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