Pacific Palisades Optimists Help Kids in Foster

Palisades Optimists Stu Kaiser(left)  and Bill Skinner visit youth residences in Hyland Park.

Pacific Palisades Optimist Club members aid kids who are aging out of foster care.

An L.A. Times 2019 Opinion piece (“Is L.A. County’s Foster System Raising the Next Generation of Homeless People?”) said “L.A. County officials have long known that the chance of homelessness is much higher among young adults who have been through foster care. . . .

“Years of neglect and emotional abuse can make foster youth easy targets for sex traffickers.”

Palisades Optimists are aware of the grim statistics, and have for years supported the Optimist Youth Homes, which provide an alternative for those kids who have aged out of the foster system.

Kids, through no fault of their own, end up in foster care when they have been removed from their home by a county child welfare agency and a juvenile court has found parents cannot care for them.

Los Angeles County has more than 21,000 youth in its foster care system and every year about 1,300 exit that system.

Those caring for foster children receive a monthly stipend and a clothing allowance. When the child reaches the age of 21, the money stops and quite often the kid, who might be attending school or working, is left to find their own place/apartment. The foster family/home is no longer responsible for the kid.

Resources for these youth are fragmented and insufficient to meet their housing, education and independent living needs. About 40% of youth experience homelessness within two years of exiting foster care.

OYHFS provides housing and robust wraparound services to support wellness, positive relationships, education and career goals, all building blocks for success transitioning into adulthood, and beyond.

Palisades Optimists Bill Skinner and Stu Kaiser, toured the facilities in Highland Park and were impressed with the 40+ new residences that provided a supportive living community to youth as they transition into adulthood. New rooms have been furnished with essentials and residents have access to communal kitchenettes and study and recreational spaces.

When asked about the importance of this mission, Skinner said, ”The main goal of our Optimist programs is to help young men and women become productive self-reliant citizens.”

Kaiser said, “Our Optimist Club mission is ‘Bringing out the Best in Kids.’ The new Optimist foster care transition program does that while also reducing homelessness in Los Angeles.”

OYHFS, a nonprofit, operates residential care facilities for 85 boys on its main campus, four group homes for boys and girls, a charter school, multifaceted mental-health programs for community youth and adults, after-care services and a foster care and adoption agency.

The first Optimist home started in 1906, when Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Strickland took in an orphaned nephew to their farm just outside the northern city limits of Los Angeles (still a main site of a home). Another boy—a ward of the court—arrived in the same year. By 1908 there were 13 boys living on the farm. The Stricklands supported the home by selling dairy products and chickens.

At the same time, Judge Curtis Wilbur, the presiding judge in Los Angeles Juvenile Court, was handling juvenile cases in Superior Court. His only option for placing delinquent or orphaned boys was in reform school. In 1914, he helped start Strickland Home for Boys.

In the late 1920s, the Home and local Optimist Clubs began discussing working together, and when the Optimists elected to provide major financial support, the name was changed to Optimist Boys’ Home and Ranch, Inc. It became a registered nonprofit in 1934.

In 1972, the Home began a major capital project: to fund its own high school to provide classrooms and vocational training for its youngsters who were victims of divorce, abuse and neglect. Two years later, the first Group Home was developed.

In 1991, the Haldeman Youth Counseling Center was opened and a year later a new Foster Family Agency program was started to place abused children, who range in age from newborns to 21, in foster homes.

An Independent Living program was initiated in 1996 to help graduates of the Home, and allow them to continue their education.

To accommodate the growing number of kids, a 23,000-square-foot “Youth Learning Center” was built, and it opened in 2005 with the name The Everychild Youth Learning Center, after the foundation that gave the lead gift.

In 2012, the Optimists partnered with L.A. County to offer a specialized program for victims of sexual trafficking. Additionally, Whole Foster Family Care became part of the foster program, which allowed pregnant or parenting teens to join the homes.

According to OYHFS, the nonprofit “provides a full continuum of care that supports children over time, across all levels of care, and into adulthood with a focus on emotional wellness, reliable relationships, educational attainment, and career pathways.”! For more information about Optimist Youth Homes & Family Services, please call Annie Nuttall at (323) 443-3023 or email

There are residences for foster kids through the Optimist Youth Homes.

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One Response to Pacific Palisades Optimists Help Kids in Foster

  1. Denise Doyen says:

    Thank you CtN for your story on The Optimist Youth Homes and Family Services; they sound like such a needed and wonderful program. Moved by your article, I went to the website. Here is a link for anyone else who wanted to donate to support a good cause:

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