Walden opposes Division of Conscience and Religious Freedom

Walden Opposes New Health and Human Services Division of Conscience and Religious Freedom

Walden Family Services stands with the Human Rights Campaign and its partners in opposition of the new Division of Conscience and Religious Freedom. The new Health and Human Services division could enable discrimination against LGBTQ people, women and others.

Cuts in other divisions and services in order to fund this division can also devastate millions of Americans with further loss of health care.

“Valuable funds should not be directed to a newly-created department that doesn’t directly benefit millions of Americans,” said WFS CEO Teresa Stivers.

Walden is firmly committed to making our agency welcoming and affirming for our LGBTQ youth and families, and to being a strong advocate for rights on their behalf.

To read the HRC response to the Division of Conscience and Religious Freedom, please visit this link.

Walden Opposes Anti-LGBTQ Discrimination in Child Welfare Services

Walden Family Services stands with the Human Rights Campaign as a child welfare organization in opposition of LGBTQ discrimination and anti-LGBTQ legislation.

We are dedicated to serving the best interests and well-being of children and youth, are deeply concerned about anti-LGBTQ bills that have been introduced in state legislatures around the country this year, including measures that would allow discrimination in adoption and foster care, criminalize transgender people who attempt to use restrooms, and, under the guise of religious liberty, give service providers the power to deny child welfare services to the very people who need our care the most.

These bills ignore the fact that our duty is to ensure the best care for our children, youth and their families.  They would foster discrimination and do harm to our clients, our patients, our students and their families.

According to the first-of-its-kind youth survey conducted by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) in 2012, 60% of LGBTQ youth reported hearing negative comments from their elected leaders, and 63% of LGBTQ youth said they believed that they would have to leave their city or move to another state to feel accepted.

In order to thrive and succeed, LGBTQ youth need our acceptance and support.

The current wave of discriminatory religious refusal measures, and other anti-LGBTQ legislation, creates a hostile environment for LGBTQ youth, threatens their access to counseling, erodes their feeling that school is a safe and supportive place, and potentially reduces their ability to find and keep a job.

We are organizations that differ in size, scope, and mission, yet we are strongly united on this: anti-LGBTQ bills send extremely harmful messages to LGBTQ youth, and present a substantial risk for discrimination in key areas that are essential to all of our organizational missions. The risks include:

  • A guidance counselor could refuse to work with an LGBTQ student who is seeking help with family challenges;
  • A physician could deny services to a gender non-conforming child or the child of LGBTQ parents;
  • A recreation center could refuse to include a LGBTQ teen on their soccer team;
  • A small business owner could refuse to serve a group of teens who he perceives are LGBTQ;
  • A mental health professional, based on their religious beliefs, could circumvent professional ethical standards by refusing to serve youth; and
  • A school could be prevented from creating appropriate accommodations for a transgender student, subjecting the school to potential liability under Title IX, the national civil rights law that prevents schools receiving federal funds from discriminating on the basis of sex.

These bills would erode the emotional and practical well-being of young LGBTQ people and their families.

We stand united in our opposition to these shameful bills and call on legislatures across the country to cease action that will undermine protections for this highly vulnerable population.

If you belong to or know a child welfare organization, feel welcome to share this statement and ask them to sign today.

Fall 2017 Walden Family Services Newsletter

A Word From Walden

We invite you to explore where we’ve come through the last season, and what we’re looking forward to throughout autumn. Thank you for being part of the Walden family.


Grammy Award-Winning Peter Frampton to Perform Live at Walden Family Services’ Annual Wine D’Vine

Walden Family Services is excited to announce that guitarist and rock icon Peter Frampton will take the stage for an exclusive performance to benefit foster children, youth and families  at the organization’s annual Wine D’Vine Gala on Friday, October 13 at the Hyatt Regency La Jolla at Aventine.

With such legendary hits as “Baby, I Love Your Way” and “Do You Feel Like I Do,” Frampton is one of the most celebrated artists and guitarists in rock history. At 16, he was lead singer and guitarist for British band the Herd. At 18, he co-founded one of the first super groups, seminal rock act Humble Pie. His session work includes collaborations with such legendary artists as George Harrison, Harry Nilsson, David Bowie, Jerry Lee Lewis, Ringo Starr, John Entwistle and many others. His fifth solo album, the electrifying Frampton Comes Alive!, is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year and remains one of the top-selling live records of all time.

“We are thrilled that Peter Frampton is going to take the stage at Wine D’Vine,” said Walden Family Services  CEO, Teresa Stivers. “He is a world-renowned performer and we are excited he was available to perform for our Wine D’Vine event guests.”

Walden Family Services provides foster and adoptive homes to  children with a focus on developmental disabilities and special health care needs. For older foster youth, Walden provides transitional housing , employment  and educational support for youth to successfully transition from  foster care to adulthood.

Wine D’Vine is Walden’s largest fundraising event of the year. The 2017 event, chaired by Caroline and Nicolas Nierenberg and Cheryl and Jeff Smith, will feature a 3-course dinner, wine from California’s leading vineyards, a live auction and  private concert.

Sponsorship opportunities are still available for organizations and individuals to highlight their commitment to ensuring our most vulnerable children have a brighter future. Tickets go on sale in August and can be purchased at https://waldenfamily.org/wine-dvine-2017/.

“Given Peter Frampton’s popularity, tickets will  sell out fast so we suggest ordering tickets as soon as they are available,” said Stivers.

Wine D’Vine is attended by San Diego’s elite business leaders, corporate partners and philanthropic supporters who seek to make the community a better place to live, work and raise families. The event will specifically honor longtime Walden supporters Mary Alice and Ron Brady with the Fostering Hearts Legacy Award. All proceeds from the event will benefit Walden Family Services and its mission.

For sponsorship opportunities or additional questions regarding how to become involved with supporting Wine D’Vine, please contact Kathryn Stephens at (619) 727-5897 or kstephens@waldenfamily.org.

Walden Family Services Meets with Senator Feinstein’s Representatives

Walden Family Services recently met with two representatives from Senator Dianne Feinstein’s office to discuss the increasing challenges and needs of homeless and foster youth. Also included in the meeting were foster and adoptive parents.

Representing Feinstein were Sabiha Khan and Cameron Onumah.

Sue Evans, Walden’s chief operations officer who represented Walden at the meeting, stated, “It is important for us to discuss the critical needs of today’s youth with our elected officials. By sharing information and ideas, our legislators can better enact laws that protect children from threats, and organizations such as Walden can further develop programs that address the evolving needs of underserved youth in Southern California.”

Among the many topics that the group discussed were:

  • The skyrocketing and alarming number of homeless foster youth. According to published reports, there has been a 61 percent increase in youth homelessness in Los Angeles in the past year alone.
  • The critical need for foster parents throughout California and particularly in the Los Angeles area
  • The value and benefits of children being placed in a foster home instead of a group home
  • Misconceptions about foster care that have resulted in negative, unfounded publicity
  • The success of Walden’s Transitional Housing Placement + Foster Care (THP+FC) program, which provides housing and extended support to young adults ages 18-21 who have aged out of foster care
  • The need for foster care placements and ongoing, specialized support for victims of commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC)
  • The challenges facing not only today’s youth but the organizations that are providing aide and support

“After our discussion, we all have a more thorough understanding of the needs of not only foster children but all youth,” stated Evans. “The lines of communication are wide open, and we look forward to ongoing talks with Senator Feinstein’s team.”

Throughout Southern California, and particularly in Los Angeles, there is a critical need for foster parents who can provide a safe, stable and loving home for a foster child(ren) and/or teenager(s). No experience is needed to be a foster parent. Individuals as well as couples can be foster parents.

Foster parents are provided training and financial support. Foster children have access to counseling, health care and social and recreational opportunities that enhance their growth and development. Walden places children in homes throughout southern California and specializes in placing children who have developmental disabilities, have special healthcare needs, are in a sibling group and/or identify as LGBTQ.

For youth who have aged out of foster care at age 18, Walden’s THP+FC program addresses the needs of the 65 percent of these youth with no place to go. Foster youth are provided housing, a monthly stipend, counseling and ongoing one-on-one support from a social worker. Participants must have a job and/or attend school, regularly deposit money in a savings account, manage a budget and abide by other specific rules centered on teaching the youth what parents typically do. The youth leave the program by the age of 21 with the skills they need to live on their own in the community, build healthy relationships and earn a college degree or learn a vocation.

Feinstein is a long-time advocate of homeless youth. She has authored key legislation to help youth have broader access to housing and help young victims of sex and human trafficking (who are often homeless). Most recently, in March, Feinstein co-introduced The Homeless Children and Youth Act of 2017, which will allow communities more flexibility to effectively meet the unique developmental needs of homeless children, youth and families. The bill has received bi-partisan support.

Walden receives Proclamation from San Diego City Council

Walden Family Services received a proclamation, presented by the City of San Diego Councilmember Lorie Zapf on May 23, 2017,  for Foster Care Awareness month. Foster Care Awareness month aims to increase awareness about foster care and encourages more involvement in the lives of these youth – whether as foster parents, volunteers, mentors or employers. In San Diego County, there are approximately 3,300 children in foster care. Each year, over 300 transition age youth leave the foster system. Over 50 per cent do not have high school diplomas, are unemployed and become homeless. Walden is proud to be recognized by the City Council’s proclamation for providing quality programs to our foster youth and families.

Councilmember Lorie Zapf’s experience as a foster child instilled in her a passion for helping disadvantaged children.  She has been an active volunteer for non-profit organizations that help abused, neglected and foster youth. Councilmember Lorie Zapf invited Walden Family Services, along with other foster youth agencies to a private reception at City Hall with the Executive Producer Greg Gugliotta, and lead actress Sherri Saum, for the hit ABC Family seriesThe Fosters. Representing Walden were Sue Evans, Chief Operating Officer; Kathryn Stephens, Director of Philanthropy; Art Candland, Foundation Board Chair, and his wife Michelle Candland. Following the private reception, The City Council awarded Walden Family Services a proclamation for Foster Care Awareness month.

Now in its 5th season, The Fosters is an American family drama television series which first premiered  June 3, 2013. It follows the lives of the Foster family led by lesbian couple Stef and Lena, a cop and a school vice principal respectively, who raise a multi-ethnic blended family that consists of one biological and four adopted children in San Diego, California.

We thank City Councilmember Lorie Zapf, Mayor Kevin Faulconer and all the Councilmembers for honoring our important work with foster youth. We also wish to thank “The Fosters” Executive Producer, Greg Gugliotta and lead actress Sherri Saum for their realistic portrayal of the challenges of parenting foster youth and the issues they face.




Simone Biles hopes to inspire other foster care kids to pursue their dreams.

Olympic gymnast Simone Biles is speaking out about her hardships growing up, being in foster care, and how she’s giving back now.

The gold medalist was placed in foster care when she was 3 years old, because her mother was addicted to drugs and alcohol. Her grandfather and his wife eventually adopted her and her younger sister, but the sisters still had to spend some time in foster care first.

“I was so young, I didn’t quite understand what was going on,” she said. “But I recall some of the kids coming to the foster home with only the clothes on their back and a backpack.”

“This is such a personal cause for me, because I know firsthand what it’s like to be in foster care — struggles and all,” Biles said. “I came from a foster home and went on to achieve everything I’ve achieved. I’m just hoping it can inspire other foster kids to never give up and to always pursue your dreams. And to play sports and get good sleep!”

SDGE Executive, Adoptive Parent Joins Walden Board

Emily Shults

Emily Shults

Walden is pleased to announce that San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) Vice President of Energy Procurement Emily Shults has joined the organization’s governance board of directors. The role is deeply personal for Shults who adopted two daughters through Walden.

“I was really interested in serving on a board that I felt connected to—one that would best help serve the needs of so many children in our community,” said Shults. “Walden Family Services is an organization that I was instantly excited to join, as my husband and I worked with Walden when we formally adopted our daughters in 2015.”

Shults further shared that she believes her various leadership positions in the business community have helped her to understand the importance of listening and supporting people at every level of an organization.

“I believe in working together to solve difficult problems and I am passionate about performance,” Shults said. “I think that this experience, combined with navigating a lengthy struggle in the interest of our girls, will give me the ability to provide a creative contribution to Walden in a way that prioritizes the interests of the children, first.”

At SDG&E, Shults is responsible for all aspects of acquiring energy and capacity to serve the company’s customers. Simply stated, Shults and her team are responsible for procuring the company’s vast renewable energy resources, as well as traditional resources. She also oversees economic dispatch of power plants, power trading, risk control and settlements. Prior to this role, Shults held numerous positions at Sempra Energy, and also worked with Williams Energy Marketing & Trading and Deloitte & Touche, LLP in her home state of Oklahoma before relocating to San Diego.  Shults holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting from the University of Tulsa.

“Emily’s experience adopting two children through Walden speaks volumes about her commitment to foster children and youth in our community,” said Teresa Stivers, CEO of Walden Family Services. ““In addition, her extensive business skills and knowledge of the community will be an invaluable asset to our board.”

Shults will serve on the board’s Continuous Quality Improvement Committee, which oversees evaluation of Walden’s programs and services and ensures regulatory compliance. Her three-year term on the board will end in 2019.

National Adoption Month Story Contest

Are you a Walden child, youth or family with an adoption story to share? Enter our National Adoption Month Story Contest by sharing a memory of your adoption experience. Just “Like” Walden’s Facebook page, then post a short story (approx. 100 words) and a family photo in the comment section below our “National Adoption Month Story Contest” post.

Entries that receive the most likes before 12:00 noon on November 18 will win either a $25 gift certificate to the Olive Cafe or four free passes to the San Diego Automotive Museum. Prize winners will be announced on Facebook on National Adoption Day, Saturday, November 19.

Learn more about National Adoption Month, or make a tribute gift to celebrate how adoption has changed your life.

Wine D’Vine Honors Foster Care Champions, Raises $675,000

Walden Family Services honored longtime champions Harley and Maryanne Sefton with the inaugural Fostering Hearts Legacy Award October 28 during its Wine D’Vine fundraiser. The event attracted a sold out crowd of 350 influential business and community leaders and raised over $675,000 for the nonprofit’s foster care, adoption and parent training programs.

“Walden is thankful for the continued generosity of the Seftons, our sponsors and our guests for making this year’s Wine D’Vine an unparalleled success,” said Walden CEO Teresa Stivers. “I am also grateful to Lacey Bowman for sharing her story about growing up in foster care and for inspiring the audience with her own gift to support the children and families Walden serves each day.”

In honor of Walden’s 40th anniversary, the evening featured an unforgettable concert with rock legend John Fogerty. The former lead singer and lead guitarist of Creedence Clearwater Revival got the room up and dancing with classic hits including “Bad Moon Rising,” “Proud Mary” and “Have You Ever Seen the Rain.” The concert was underwritten by the Seftons and produced by Bollotta Entertainment.

The event was chaired by Marty and David Pendarvis, and emceed by Ranch & Coast editor-at-large Andrea Naversen. Other notable guests included Ron and Mary Alice Brady, Lori and Bill Walton, Olivia and Peter Farrell, Gaby and Rich Sulpizio, Stephanie and Steve Brownell, and Wendy and Greg Hunter.

AJW Facilities and Construction was the Wine D’Vine Ruby Premier sponsor. Premier Cru sponsors included event chairs Marty &and David Pendarvis, Barney & Barney, Dowling & Yahnke, the Farrell Family Foundation and Union Bank.

Each year, proceeds from Wine D’Vine account for 35% of the funds raised to support children, youth and families served by Walden. In 2015, community investment allowed more than 1,500 children, youth and families throughout Southern California to heal from trauma and develop relationships that prepare them to thrive.

Check out the Wine D’Vine 2016 photo gallery, and mark your calendar to attend Wine D’Vine 2017 taking place October 13, 2017.

About the Fostering Hearts Legacy Award

The Fostering Hearts Legacy Award honors individuals who have made a lasting commitment to ensure that children and youth in foster care have loving families and opportunities to become vibrant, productive members of the community.