Model & Strategy

The Problem
Children in the foster care system are effectively left on their own when they age out of the system, usually from the ages of 18-21. These young people often have no adult guidance, financial backstop, or social support of any kind — causing additional trauma after being forced out of the system. The statistics are sobering:

  • 1 in 4 young persons who age out of foster care report being homeless between ages 19-21.
  • 1 in 5 of these young people have been incarcerated by age 21.
  • 1 in 10 reports parenting a child between ages 17-19, and nearly 25% become parents between ages 19-21.
  • Only 57% report being employed, either full-time or part-time, at age 21.

The Solution
First Place for Youth offers a solution to this problem that is a sophisticated, evolved model of the concept of extended foster care. They combine robust housing support with case management, education and employment counseling, and healthy living skills assistance. First Place for Youth’s “My First Place” model has four basic components:

  1. Provide subsidized housing for youth aging out of traditional foster care that is located conveniently to transit, education, and jobs
  2. Intensive case management
  3. Assistance with obtaining higher education and living-wage employment
  4. One-on-one healthy living skills assistance in areas such as financial literacy, personal well-being, and where necessary, parenting.

In addition, First Place for Youth’s Independent Living Skills Program provides current and former foster youth (ages 16-21) with essential guidance, support, and services as they transition to independence. First Place for Youth is beginning to spread their successful model throughout the country to improve outcomes for vulnerable youth.

At a Glance
Founded: 1998
Systemic Poverty
Location of work: Domestic, West Coast
First Place for Youth
Oakland, CA
More is possible.
Meet Thomas Lee

Thomas has focused his career on transforming child welfare systems into child well-being systems. Before joining First Place for Youth as CEO in 2021, he launched and grew the Los Angeles Chapter of Friends of the Children. Under his leadership, the chapter became the fastest growing of 34 locations across the country, demonstrating at multiple regional sites how professional mentors can prevent entry into the foster care system to help end multi-generational cycles of poverty and foster care. Thomas also spent 13 years working with transition-age youth in the foster care system, both in the non-profit sector as director of the Opportunity Youth Collaborative for the Alliance for Children’s Rights and as a Division Director for Transition Age Youth at Hillsides.


First Place has directly served over 10,000 transition-age (16-25) foster youth and provided housing and intensive case management to over 3,000 youth.

Since 2016, over 1,700 youth have exited First Place for Youth into stable housing having secured employment and enrolled in college to achieve their goals.

First Place for Youth successfully advocated for the passage of extended foster care nationally and in California, where the policy and regulations were modeled off the My First PlaceTM program.

Today, more than 14,000 transition-age foster youth in California are served within reimagined systems and policies First Place for Youth helped create.