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Cal Wellness defines resilient youth as young people, ages 14 to 26, who are in, or have exited, the juvenile or adult criminal justice system; are currently or were formerly in foster care; are homeless; or are experiencing these circumstances while pregnant and/or parenting.

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Fostering Youth’s Resiliency for California’s Future

Reflections from Judy Belk, June 16, 2015

I am writing this having recently returned from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where I joined 13 members of my rowdy extended family who gathered from across the country to celebrate with my son, Ryan, who received his doctorate in history. It seems like only yesterday that I was getting him ready for his first day of kindergarten!

While I'm bursting with pride over Ryan’s present and promise of future accomplishments, I also realize that he has benefited greatly from a strong family and community support system; a stable home supported by two parents with decent jobs; access to affordable health care; a quality educational experience; and living in a safe and healthy neighborhood — all critical elements for the health, wellness and quality of life for all young people.

At Cal Wellness, we believe that every child, especially in a resource-rich state like California, should have the benefits that Ryan has experienced. While I might think Ryan is pretty special, in fact, he is no more deserving of a quality life experience than any other young person.

Cal Wellness is investing significant resources to help chart pathways for young people who are often burdened with dismal labels such as “the drop out,” “the teenage mother,” “the incarcerated” or “the unemployed.” At Cal Wellness we see much more.

We see young people who are resilient in the struggle to overcome enormous odds. If California is going to succeed as a state, then we can't afford to waste this human capital. We need these resilient young people to fill current and future jobs, parent the next generation, and participate fully in civic life.

Our community partners, such as Youth Law Center and Public Counsel, are trying to level the playing field. They are calling on policymakers to value and honor our youth and support policies and efforts that provide a way out of foster care and juvenile justice systems into lives full of promise and hope. Other grantees, such as First Place for Youth, Los Angeles Mission College Foundation and Homeboy Industries, are looking at the links among education, employment and health and watching their youth soar to new heights with the right supports in place.

This work gives me hope that, in future years, Ryan's experience will be the norm, not the exception, for all young people around the state.


Judy Belk
President and CEO

More on This Topic:

Increasing Educational Opportunities for Resilient Youth
The California Wellness Foundation

Promoting Employment and Asset-Building Opportunities
The California Wellness Foundation

“Programs for Foster Youth Provide Pathways to Higher Education”
Wellness Stories, May 2015

“InsideOut Writers”
Grantee, Winter 2013

“Voices from the Street”
California Homeless Youth Project, video series


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