The mission of First Place is to help foster kids build the skills they need to make a successful transition to self-sufficiency and responsible adulthood.
First Place was founded in 1998 by Amy Lemley and Deanne Pearn, graduate students at the University of California at Berkeley-Goldman School of Public Policy. Amy and Deanne were struck by the poverty and homelessness that affects so many young people who grow up in foster care and were inspired to help break the cycle of poverty for these vulnerable youth. With a small grant in hand, they began First Place with four former foster kidsâ€”providing critical housing and support around education, employment and financial literacy. First Place was the first organization in Northern California dedicated exclusively to addressing the lack of affordable housing and resources for former foster kids and has grown to become a nationally-recognized model operating in five California counties: Alameda, San Francisco, Contra Costa, Solano, and Los Angeles.
First Place believes that our direct service work drives our advocacy efforts, and that our advocacy can provide a context in which our direct services can succeed. The implementation of the Fostering Connections to Success Act is changing the landscape for providers throughout the country. As a result, it is critical that First Place continue to show that strong, outcome-driven programs can succeed in this new environment and that by scaling our program model, we can fundamentally change the way the child welfare system serves young adults who have grown up in foster care. First Place can be a catalyst in building the evidence to support this drive; by doing so, we increase awareness about the policies and practices that will ultimately benefit the entire field and foster youth across the nation.
Where We Work
What We Do
First Place's My First Place program is a nationally-recognized model for providing current and former foster kids the opportunity to develop a sense of permanency for the first time in their lives. Young people live in one- or two-bedroom apartment, and receive support with move-in costs, rent, food, essential furnishings, health and mental health needs and access to employment and education services. My First Place program staff members work with young people to set goals that develop self-esteem and move them toward greater independence. The stability provided by housing empowers young people to build communities, pursue their dreams, and pave their own way for successful, independent living for years to come. In the past decade, over 1,000 California current and former foster kids have been housed via this program.