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December 11, 2017

South Bay Community Services

South Bay Community Services (SBCS) has partnered with the San Diego Workforce Partnership for over 10 years. With the support of WIA/WIOA funding, SBCS has served over 800 foster youth and provided hundreds of youth valuable work experience opportunities, highlighting the impact of this collaboration between the San Diego Department of Health and Human Services, SBCS and SDWP. The effectiveness of the work is validated by the County of San Diego’s continued support and funding.

At the start of a new five-year contract, SBCS hopes to transform how to serve foster youth and allow them to “EXCEL.” The EXCEL program works with 18 to 24-year-olds who are currently or have previously been connected with the foster care system. As part of the program, SBCS assists with career pathway planning, educational advancement and increasing the employability of participants by offering paid internships, career development and training referrals. They also provide youth development activities on subjects like building leadership skills, financial literacy competencies and community involvement.

With more than 400 people on staff stationed throughout the San Diego region, SBCS has been providing services and programs since 1971. Through comprehensive and coordinated services and support for children, youth and families, SBCS provides a comprehensive list of services, including:

  • Housing assistance
  • Independent living skills
  • Employment readiness and financial literacy services
  • Mental health counseling
  • Domestic violence and child abuse intervention
  • Juvenile crime prevention
  • Therapeutic educational programming

SBCS embraces a philosophy of youth-driven, trauma-informed, strength-based Positive Youth Development (PYD), which views youth as developing beings in the wider context of family, peers, community and social systems. The PYD philosophy is the cornerstone of SBCS’ programs. PYD involves assisting and guiding, but not leading, and providing a safe stable setting from which youth can learn, experiment and transition into independence and self-sufficiency. Through this process, young adults gain skills they need to increase their own resiliency and to avoid behaviors that put them at risk. Young adults are encouraged to develop their life vision and take steps toward implementing that vision.

In collaboration with SBCS’ Independent Living Skills (ILS) partners, foster youth are coached and mentored by adult staff and peer mentors as they receive life skills and work-readiness training through the ILS/WIOA program. This includes the ability to form viable, respectful youth-adult partnerships. The PYD approach is strengthened through an agency-wide trauma-informed approach to all services, which significantly improves client outcomes. It is the program goal that foster youth will acquire competencies, work experience, essential skills and life skills that will result in them becoming healthy, self-sufficient adults.

Many foster youth lack the skills many children in traditional homes receive through attentive parenting. When young adults experience multiple placements during their most formative years, they miss out on the development of skills needed to make life choices. This lack of support can lead to young adults not knowing what to do and being thrusted into adulthood once leaving the system and feeling overwhelmed. Having a program like EXCEL can mean the difference between a young adult becoming homeless and making unhealthy decisions, or finding suitable supportive housing, permanent employment and a career path that will result in a bright future. With a trauma-informed approach, EXCEL offers career guidance, youth development, independent living skills and education support provided by caring adults who will help guide them in a way that does not enable them, but empowers them by building on their strength.

Finding success in achieving goals: Matthia’s Story

Matthias came into the EXCEL program at 18 years old wanting to find employment and not sure about attending college. He wanted to learn how to get a job because after submitting several applications he was beginning to get discouraged. He started the program eager to ask many questions and wanting to be prepared to participate in an internship. Matthias remembers struggling and asking for more help to get better at communicating, especially in interviews.

The day of his interview to intern at GameStop, Matthias displayed professionalism and received feedback that he provided clear, respectful communication. There has been great development from the first time he met with his career coach, not able to fully express his thoughts, compared to providing confident responses to interview his questions.

One of Matthias’ main goals was to become independent and gain experiences in order to become more self-reliant. After completing the internship with exceptional evaluations, he was encouraged to apply for an open position at GameStop. Matthias shared how excited and proud he was that those who supervised him acknowledged his hard work.

During the program, Matthias made the decision to apply to Grossmont College, still not sure if attending school was what he wanted. He is currently attending classes and, while he is not quite as thrilled to go to school as he is to work, Matthias now knows that school will allow him to achieve not only higher paid positions, but work in a field that he will enjoy. He finds being a great role model important to his siblings and encouraged not only one, but two brothers to enroll in the program to inspire them in reaching their own goals.

“We experience the greatest rewards when our participants set goals and achieve them,” says Robin Graham, Program Director. “Seeing the pride in their faces lets us know we made a difference.” Going on to say, “There are multiple rewarding experiences when working with our youth—from the “thank-you” text messages to the emails from our education partners to the attainment of certifications and permanent employment. They are all predicated on their personal accomplishments. When we see our youth use the tools, support and resources we along with our partners offer to achieve their goals, it is magical and gratifying for all.”

Learn more about SBCS at


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