Thanks to the generosity of St. Germaine Children's Charity grant, Children’s Legal Services of San Diego was able to fund a new position to support our more than 300 Non-Minor Dependent (NMD) clients and attract a greater number of our 200+ teenage clients to opt-in to Extended Foster Care upon their own 18th birthdays. The Peer Advocate position will help foster youth learn to make the most of their opportunities in foster care, assist in formulating a plan for life after foster care, and build advocacy skills that the youth will be able to utilize all of their lives. The Peer Advocate will conduct outreach to foster youth who may be eligible for Extended Foster Care but are unaware or skeptical of its benefits. They also will assist those seeking to re-enter foster care after their case has closed by helping them complete the necessary paperwork, establish eligibility, connect them with housing and other resources and provide much needed moral support.
A Peer Advocate will instruct, motivate and guide clients through the court process as well as assist with necessary paperwork to ensure the clients remain empowered and in compliance.
By explaining in a language clients understand from a background of having gone through the court system themselves, a Peer Advocate can help keep clients engaged in the court process by bridging the gap between the client and attorney and the court system.
The Peer Advocate will help link the client with the attorney regarding issues related to their case and other non-case specific court related matters. Clients are often more comfortable sharing information with peers and persons who have shared backgrounds when reaching out for help/assistance free of judgement.
Along with their attorneys, the Peer Advocate will help to ensure youth have access to the necessary legal help, resources and services to prepare for life after foster care. The Peer Advocate will work directly with our teenage clients outside of the courtroom and in the community, collaborating with a cross sector of child welfare, workforce, educational and other community and county agencies working with transitioning age youth.
Our new Peer Advocate, Tasha Matthews, is a former foster youth, and already a very accomplished young lady. She graduated last year from UCSD with a degree in Ethnic Studies, and a minor in Literature. She is the leader of the San Diego chapter of California Youth Connections, an organization that strives to improve the lives of foster youth by direct advocacy to lawmakers in Sacramento. The organization also recruits foster youth themselves and teaches them the skills necessary to be strong advocates on their own behalf. While at UCSD she organized and ran Foster the Students, an organization that facilitated meetings to ensure a supportive and safe space for UCSD foster youth to meet and share their college and life experiences. She was also the Secretary of the Native American Student Alliance at UCSD, and organized meetings and get-togethers to encourage participation in social justice events focused on indigenous rights and Native students’ academic success.
In short, to say we are excited to have Tasha on board here at CLSSD is an understatement!