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San Diego non-profit helps foster youth transition to adulthood

Just In Time For Foster Youth is for people between the ages of 18 and 27, helping former foster kids in the system become self-sufficient adults.

SAN DIEGO — Just In Time For Foster Youth Services for example, helps bridge the gap for those getting out of the system.

The non-profit started 20-years-ago. Now, they help around 3,000 foster youth each and every year, transition into successful adults.

"For me, it was normal. I was accustomed to instability," Irving Chavez said.

"Sadly people sometimes look at foster youth as damaged," Don Wells said, who is the organization's Chief Empowerment Officer.

On average more than 2,000 kids are in foster care, across San Diego County. Statistics provided by Just In Time, show around 50% end up on the street after age 18.

"It was due to my mother's mental health and my family's criminal history," Chavez said. Over the span of eleven years, he was in and out of eight different homes. "I didn't go to school. I went a few days in first grade, and then not again until high school. No home school, nothing in between," he added.

Simply put, he says there was no responsible adult to take him. He couldn't write until the age of 14. Today, he's a college graduate.

"If you're looking for a sense of community, but also a connection to yourself, how can you say no to that?" Chavez said.

Chavez discovered Just In Time For Foster Youth and now works for the non-profit inspiring the next generation. They want the focus to be more on empowering foster youth, rather than just protecting them. "I know it's far too common where there are lower-income families taking in children for some of the economic benefits," Chavez said.

Don't be fooled by the name. Just In Time For Foster Youth is for those between the ages of 18 and 27, helping former foster kids in the system become self sufficient adults. 

They'll help you apply for college or a job, teach you how to budget, get a driver's license or even into your first home. They help with skills not always taught in school or at home. 

"People will come here because we're giving them a free laptop or rental assistance. If we told them come here and make a lasting connection, they would say, people have told me that before, but then they come and see and stay for the relationships," Wells said. Relationships that are consistent and healthy is by far the most important thing they provide, as they help young people work toward their goals. 

"It's relationships. No young person should look at an adult and say why are you still in my life? How can you have any stability, or even take a risk, if you don't have a safety net," Wells added.

Volunteers are at the core of what they do, so if you have time to make a difference or have an expertise, like tax tips, Just In Time will find a spot for you. They primarily run on donations and just recently received $250,000 from San Diego Gas and Electric. 

Coming up on Sept. 23, Just In Time For Foster Youth is hosting their annual Pathways to Financial Power Conference.

That includes a career fair, networking lunch and inspirational speakers.

Just In Time also just published a book called 'Life Changing Choices.'

CBS 8 has launched a new series called Working for Our Community. We shed light on local non-profits that are having a positive impact on our community.

WORKING FOR OUR COMMUNITY: CBS 8 helps get a roof donated to a local non-profit helping women affected by trauma 

At CBS 8, we are always Working for You and our community. This is a station promise that we will go the extra mile to solve a problem our audience can’t solve themselves. We want to hear your ideas on how we can cover and help our community. If you have a story idea, please email us at workingforyou@cbs8.com.


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