Tiffany’s Story: Making the Change With Learn and Earn to Achieve Potential

Posted December 8, 2017
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Blog tiffanysstorymakingthechange 2017

Tiffany, age 25, wants to advo­cate for those who have found them­selves down but not out. It’s a van­tage point she knows all too well.

Three years ago, the young moth­er was strug­gling to pro­vide for her twin boys. She had exit­ed fos­ter care and was drift­ing with­out a plan before the unthink­able hap­pened. Her sons were tak­en away.

The loss — one of many in her life — was a turn­ing point.

Instead of dwelling on some­thing that’s neg­a­tive, I decid­ed to turn it into a pos­i­tive,” Tiffany recalls. I had to get it togeth­er, and I knew I had to do every­thing right.”

Trans­form­ing her grief into action, Tiffany resolved to pur­sue a career in social work. She took her first steps in the right direc­tion — mov­ing into her own apart­ment and start­ing a two-year pro­gram to gain the skills and cre­den­tials nec­es­sary to obtain a post­sec­ondary edu­ca­tion —while preg­nant with her third child. Along the way, she received sup­port from the Coali­tion for Respon­si­ble Com­mu­ni­ty Devel­op­ment (CRCD) — one of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 10 local Learn and Earn to Achieve Poten­tial (LEAP)™ partners.

LEAP helps young peo­ple who have been home­less or involved in a pub­lic sys­tem pur­sue high­er edu­ca­tion or employ­ment. Of the more than 1,200 LEAP par­tic­i­pants to date, near­ly 40% have expe­ri­enced the child wel­fare sys­tem and near­ly 30% have expe­ri­enced both the child wel­fare and jus­tice systems.

CRCD, based in Los Ange­les, offers com­pre­hen­sive sup­port ser­vices to youth who have been involved with fos­ter care. The orga­ni­za­tion works to remove bar­ri­ers that would derail a participant’s path to grad­u­a­tion day, and it’s how Tiffany con­nect­ed with her col­lege nav­i­ga­tor, Michelle.

As her due date neared, Tiffany worked with Michelle — whom she calls one of her most impor­tant sources of sup­port — to line up low-cost child care. The two women also set out to devel­op a step-by-step plan that would enable Tiffany to tran­si­tion back to school once she returned from mater­ni­ty leave.

Michelle has real­ly pushed me and made me real­ize who I am as a per­son so I can stay moti­vat­ed in school,” says Tiffany. Edu­ca­tion is impor­tant, and it’s some­thing nobody can ever take from you.”

All the pieces of this plan have since fall­en into place. Tiffany gave birth to a healthy baby boy and re-enrolled in class­es at Los Ange­les Trade Tech­ni­cal Col­lege. She is apply­ing to four-year uni­ver­si­ties in the area and aim­ing to trans­fer in 2018. Once she earns her degree, Tiffany says she hopes to work for a fos­ter care agency.

As for her ever-grow­ing respon­si­bil­i­ties as a par­ent and stu­dent, Tiffany is now jug­gling moth­er­hood, excelling in school and main­tain­ing sta­ble hous­ing for her fam­i­ly. She cred­its the unwa­ver­ing sup­port she receives from Michelle and the rest of the team at CRCD for her success.

When I am hav­ing a bad day and don’t feel like being in school, I can reach out for help,” she says. Every­thing has been bet­ter, and hav­ing that extra sup­port has made all the difference.”

Tiffany’s advice to oth­er young peo­ple fac­ing tough cir­cum­stances? You’re nev­er stuck. You just have to be will­ing to make that change.”

Learn more about LEAP’s ear­ly progress

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