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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.

Selfie of an adoptive family wearing sunglasses

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.

Harley and Maryanne Sefton with John Fogerty at the 2016 Wine D'Vine fundraiser

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.

Picture of young Hispanic father with son

Weingart Foundation Awards $200,000 to Walden Family Services

Grant Will Expand Services to Foster Youth in Los Angeles and Inland Empire

Walden Family Services (Walden) announced today that the Weingart Foundation has awarded the agency a $200,000 unrestricted grant. Walden intends to use the grant funds to build its capacity to serve foster children and youth in Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties. The grant will allow Walden the flexibility to respond to changes in the foster care system, which is focused on keeping families together whenever possible and placing children who cannot return home with families rather than in group homes or institutions.

“Research routinely shows that the lasting relationships children develop with family and community are the foundation for learning, social-emotional well-being, and successful, fulfilling lives,” said Walden CEO Teresa Stivers. “Thanks to the Weingart Foundation grant, we can expand our outreach to foster and adoptive families and community partners so that more children grow up prepared to realize their full potential.”

Walden strives to give foster youth the same opportunities as their peers, but government funding cuts make it extremely challenging. “Weingart has generously approved Walden using $50,000 of the grant for a dollar-for-dollar matching campaign so that we can build the reserve funds necessary to cover upfront program costs,” added Arlene Lieberman, chair of Walden’s Governance Board of Directors.

Walden will also leverage the Weingart Foundation grant to attract individual donors and private funders and decrease the agency’s reliance on government funding.

Rock legend John Fogerty

Grammy Winner John Fogerty Live at Wine D’Vine

GRAMMY winner John Fogerty takes the stage October 28 at Wine D’Vine, a 40th anniversary celebration and concert to benefit foster children, youth and families throughout Southern California.

“Walden’s vision that every child should grow up in a family inspired me to get involved in supporting kids in foster care,” said Maryanne Sefton. “I’m thrilled that this year’s event gives more people an opportunity to learn how their generosity prepares foster youth to become productive members of our community.”

Chaired by Marty and David Pendarvis, Wine D’Vine features a VIP reception with appetizers prepared by Pamplemousse Grille Executive Chef Jeffrey Strauss. Guests will also enjoy fine wine from leading California vineyards, a three-course dinner by Estancia La Jolla and a live auction. The concert, presented by Harley and Maryanne Sefton, will feature Fogerty’s classic hits, including “Bad Moon Rising”, “Have You Ever Seen The Rain” and “Fortunate Son.” Ranch & Coast editor-at-large Andrea Naversen will serve as mistress of ceremonies.

About Wine D’Vine

Now in its 12th year, Wine D’Vine attracts over 350 philanthropic and community leaders committed to creating bright futures for foster children and youth. Proceeds from the event account for 35 percent of Walden’s annual fundraising. In 2015, Walden Family Services provided more than 1,500 children, youth and families with services that help them heal from trauma, promote nurturing relationships and create opportunities to thrive.

Tables and Tickets

A VIP Reserved Table for 10 is $6,000, a VIP ticket is $600 per person, and general admission is $4,000 per table or $400 per person. Purchase tickets online or contact Kathryn Stephens, Director of Philanthropy, at (619) 727-5897 or via email for more information.

UC San Diego Chancellor's Community Advisory Board

Walden CEO Named to UCSD Chancellor’s Community Advisory Board

Picture of Teresa Stivers

Teresa Stivers, CEO, Walden Family Services

UC San Diego Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla today announced that Walden CEO Teresa Stivers has joined the university’s Chancellor’s Community Advisory Board. As a board member, Stivers (UC San Diego Alumna ’90) will build awareness of the university’s positive impact and advise the Chancellor on the campus’ role in the community.

“Teresa is recognized throughout the San Diego community for creating opportunities for foster youth and other first-generation students to earn college degrees,” said Khosla. “Her insight into creating academic, networking and housing opportunities for these students will ensure that we provide opportunities for all our students to succeed.”

“Too often, foster youth don’t consider college because they don’t have the skills to navigate college visits, applications, financial aid and housing,” said Stivers. “At Walden, social workers encourage them to seize the opportunity to remain in foster care to pursue their education. I look forward to working with Chancellor Khosla and the board to ensure that graduating becomes the norm, not the exception, for foster youth who choose to go to college.”

Stivers’ Leadership Experience

At Walden, Stivers oversees administration, operations, public relations and fundraising. Since joining the organization in 2010, Walden has become one of the state’s largest providers of transitional housing and support services so that youth ages 18-21 can remain in foster care to continue their education or find stable employment. Walden also served as the program director and executive director of the Child Abuse Prevention Foundation (now Promises2Kids), where she helped to establish the Guardian Scholars Program and Mary’s House, a transitional living program for former foster youth. In addition to her role on the Chancellor’s Community Advisory Board, Stivers currently serves on committees for the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, San Diego County Taxpayers Association, and Housing YOU Matters.

Media Contact

Teresa Stivers
(619) 727-5881

Walden in the News