by Juliet Velarde
Teen Force is a self-sustaining non-profit organization that helps teens (ages 14-20) gain work experience. The staffing agency model makes it convenient and cost-effective for employers to hire teens and generates revenue to support the activities.
Jamealle Spain, a Foster Youth Development Coordinators at Teen Force, has been a part of Teen Force since February of 2013. Spain knows personally the employment needs of foster youth.
He was in the foster care system since he was nine and he was emancipated at 18. After Spain was emancipated he didn’t know where to go, but he had always had a job since he was 16. He worked at CVS, Macy’s, Taco Bell, UPS, and the Sunnyvale Public Safety Office. Although he didn’t always know where to sleep, he was always working. But it was stressful.
“How can you work or go to school if you don’t know where you going to be sleeping at night,” said Spain.
Teen Force believes that child welfare development has four pillars, which are housing, safety and health, education and employment. If Teen Force only provides the first three pillars, they feel youth are not properly prepared for emancipation and self-support.
According to a California Youth Connection (CYC) report on higher education for youth in foster care, only eight percent of former foster youth obtain a two-year degree. Twenty-five percent graduate from a four-year institution, and less than one percent obtains a graduate degree. If youth have less education they are more likely to end up homeless or have trouble finding a job.
So Teen Force provides services for foster youth including placement in local jobs, skill development trainings ( Trader Joes, Best Buy, Wing Stop and local restaurants), work readiness training, help building a resume, and interviewing skills and personal coaching.
Teen Force ’s programs help youth find employment and become less likely to be homeless.