Foster youth in the works

California College Pathways Project Manager Devon Werble presented to a group of Los Medanos College faculty and staff members in Library Room L-109 this past Monday.

Before the presentation began, LMC Instructor Tue Rust spoke briefly about the importance of providing programs for Foster youth. Rust then introduced new Foster Youth Counselor, Connie Woods who’s past experiences include working in transitional housing and various group homes. After Woods spoke, Rust then introduced Werble.

Jennifer Adams, Senior Executive Assistant to the LMC President, helped set up the PowerPoint, Werble gave some background information about CCP, which was supported by the John Burton Foundation.

She explained that the purpose of the program is to provide networking for foster youth and to “provide training and technical assistance” for staff and faculty not only on college campuses, but on K-12 campuses as well. “We like to connect our network campuses,” she said.

LMC once had a program for foster youth, but lack of funding made it difficult to keep the program going. “I’d like to get LMC connected to philanthropy again,” said Werble.

She then moved into the topic of how children end up in foster care. Abuse and neglect are the main reasons children are removed from their homes. Werble said the neglect cases are worse because it has a longer lasting negative psychological affect on a child.

One of the attendees was an LMC student who identified himself as Kevin, spoke about his experience being in the foster care system.

After reciting statistics and expressing his desire to start a foster youth club on campus, Werble suggested that when LMC starts up a new program, they should work with him on a planning committee.

Kevin then talked about some of the issues he had, one of them being that young kids are often prescribed prescription medication to “numb them.” He said “coping skills are a huge advantage” and kids would be better off learning how to deal with problems such as depression and anger without medication.

Werble offered more statistics saying “seven out of nine colleges in the LA District has funding to start foster care programs.”

Patsy Sherman, a part-time instructor at LMC chimed in talking about her experience with individuals in foster care. She said she’s been trying to “get them excited about LMC.” Both Sherman and Werble said it’s imperative that you say, “When you go to college” instead of “If you go to college” because it means you believe in them.

Werble told the audience to encourage foster youth when they get to college by saying “You’re awesome, you’re here. Let’s get rolling.”

She then moved on to talking about adolescent brain development and how if kids are going through things at home, they need special attention. There are telltale signs that some students might be having issues at home.

“Yeah they may have their head on the table. They might not have any interest in doing their homework but there’s more going on than just disinterest,” said Werble. These kids are often misjudged as being dumb but “they are resourceful, they just need to know you give a crap.”

Adams assisted Werble in finding a short YouTube video discussing children’s brain development and thought processes. After the video was done, President Bob Krachtovil walked around the room offering the microphone to anyone who wanted to speak.

One attendee who also happened to be a foster parent, talked about the quality of training foster caretakers receive. Kevin said that not only do they need to be properly trained; they also need psychological evaluations to weed out people who could potentially be abusive.

After a brief discussion about the attendee’s concerns, there was a list of actions campuses can take to be more foster care-friendly. It was then that Werble’s co-presenter Johneshia Mullins arrived. She’s an LMC student who has also had her share of positive and negative experiences in the foster care system.

After Mullins told her story, she gave suggestions on how to better accommodate foster youth. It all boiled down to “making the students feel welcome and safe.” The audience then applauded her.

Werble added that it’s important to let the students know that their ideas are valued and that if you want to get positive results from them, you need to “show them that you’re human too.”

After the presentation, faculty stayed to talk to Werble and Mullins. Rust stayed and chatted with those who earlier, had expressed interest in supporting the institution of a new program here at LMC for foster youth.