Model & Strategy

The Problem
When a child enters foster care, the trauma of the abuse, neglect, and/or abandonment that resulted in their removal from their family home is compounded by the challenges of the broken system itself. At ages 17 or 18, foster youth are two to four times more likely to suffer from past-year and/or lifetime mental health disorders than their peers. Estimates of the prevalence of diagnosable mental health conditions, including post-traumatic stress and major-depressive disorders, range from 50-80% among foster youth.

Like everyone else, foster youth need good mental health and a sense of well-being to experience joy, live resiliently, and thrive. In the public mental health system, many foster youth are assigned multiple therapists over time, the length of treatment is short, and therapists often lack significant clinical experience. There simply aren’t enough publicly funded mental health professionals to support the healing of our nation’s foster youth. The public system can thus do more harm than good, subjecting children to another short-term relationship and more loss. A Home Within addresses these shortcomings by giving foster youth the opportunity to meet with therapists who commit to remaining in their lives for “as long as it takes.” This means that even if a young person leaves the system, the relationship with their A Home Within therapist can sustain.

The Solution
A Home Within identifies, recruits, trains, and supports a network of licensed therapists who provide weekly, one-to-one therapy to current and former foster youth of any age. The impact of A Home Within is best understood by seeing how one dedicated therapist can help a single traumatized foster youth become more self-aware, find the tools for self-care, and get on a path toward a healthy, productive life. In 20 chapters across 11 states, A Home Within volunteers provide tens of thousands of hours of free service each year, lasting at least three years, at an average value of $10K per case.

A Home Within’s relationship-based psychotherapy — in which the relationship between the client and therapist is both the context and catalyst for positive change — has a long history of yielding significant, lasting change for the majority of those who can undertake it. The Foster Care Research Group (FCRG) at the University of San Francisco has tracked and measured clinical outcomes for the clients served through A Home Within for more than 10 years, consistently finding that those served by A Home Within show statistically significant reductions in symptoms of depression, anxiety, and dissociative experience following treatment.

A Home Within is scaling its successful California pilot collaboration with Court Appointed Special Advocates of Contra Costa County (CASA). The A Home Within — CASA Therapy Project provides expanded care to include teletherapy for youth in foster care throughout California.

At a Glance
Founded: 2006
Executive Director: Reed Connell
Founder: Toni Heineman
Location of work: Domestic, Northeast, West Coast, Midwest, Southwest, Southeast
A Home Within
San Francisco, CA
One child, one therapist, for as long as it takes
Meet Reed Connell

Reed Connell joined A Home Within as Executive Director in 2020. Reed has 20 years of experience in foster care, mental health, housing, and special education settings, and has worked with a range of organizations on resource, program, and capacity development. He is the co-founder of Social Change Partners, LLC, which supports nonprofits and government in meeting the needs of children and families.

Dr. Toni Heineman, founder & DRK Entrepreneur, is a Clinical Professor at the University of California San Francisco in Psychiatry and has been in private practice in San Francisco, working with adults, children, and families for over 30 years. Toni is the author of several articles focused on psychotherapy with children and has made numerous presentations to lay and professional audiences about the mental health issues facing children and parents.  She is the author of An Abused Child: Psychodynamic Understanding and Treatment and Relational Treatment of Trauma: Stories of Loss and Hope.  She is co-editor of Building A Home Within: Meeting the Emotional Needs of Children and Youth in Foster Care, and Treating Trauma: Relationship-Based Psychotherapy with Children, Adolescents, and Young Adults.


Nearly 70% of those served by A Home Within show statistically significant reductions in symptoms of depression, anxiety, and dissociative experience following treatment.

A Home Within participants perform better in school, have more fulfilling relationships, find more stable employment, and are less likely to be incarcerated.