A prominent Los Angeles-based policy advocacy group headed by well-known child advocate Andrew Bridge will be merging with a direct service provider by the end of this year.
“Part of the thinking was if we could we combine direct practice with the implementation of policy, we would have a much stronger organization,” said Sylvia Fogelman, the founder and CEO of the Southern California Foster Family and Adoption Agency (SCFFAA), which usually handles a caseload of about 75 children from the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) at one time. The organization has an annual budget of about $2 million.
“In a sense, we’re creating a [new] model because when you see what happens in direct service, it becomes pretty clear what kind of policy issues need to be dealt with,” Fogelman said
Fogelman’s decision to retire earlier this year led to strategic discussions about the future of the organization. A longtime fixture of the Los Angeles child welfare world, Bridge, the executive director of the Child Welfare Initiative (CWI), was brought on board. Fogelman is staying on until the end of the year to assist Bridge with the merger process.
CWI’s projects have included working with service providers to offer more effective programs for transition-age foster youth and finding ways to increase employment opportunities for older foster youth.
Bridge pointed to CWI’s previous work at developing best practices for recruiting foster parents for children who have high mental health needs to illustrate how CWI’s expertise will help improve program outcomes for SCFFAA.
“That involved sitting down with foster family [agencies] that do this type of work and talking about different ways of approaching recruitment, different ways of supporting those families once you do recruit them and then how to change both internal practices among those FFAs and with DCFS to change practices and better support families,” Bridge said. “We were able to show how the children have been impacted by what we do. Their lives have been changed by the change that we brought about. Bringing us together with SCFFAA allows us to do that in a more direct way.”
Both leaders hope that the new organization will be well positioned to provide immediate, proven solutions aimed at children in foster care.
“Too often we see that people are very good at identifying problems but not as good at finding solutions for the problems,” Fogelman said. “I think that’s where we’re trying to go here—to see if there’s not ways in which we can help by finding some new ideas and new solutions.”
Jeremy Loudenback is a Journalism for Social Change Fellow and a graduate student at USC’s Sol Price School of Public Policy.