A Home Within - Mental health free of charge.

A Home Within - Mental health free of charge.

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Last Update: March 26, 2012

A Home Within is a national organization that provides pro bono mental health services to current and former foster youth. We achieve this by building networks of volunteer mental health professionals who provide direct, pro bono services and professional training. Our work also promotes public awareness and advocates for the emotional needs of foster youth.

A Home Within's audacious goal is to ensure that on entering foster care every child will be connected with an adult who will be available for an indefinite time.

Our premise is simple: “One child. One therapist. For as long as it takes.”

Type: hybrid

The Problem

Research over the last fifty years has robustly demonstrated that children in foster care suffer from increased rates of multiple psychiatric, behavioral, and substance use disorders resulting from the abuse and neglect they have experienced, together with the additional traumas of removal from home and the instability of the foster care system itself. Research also shows that the majority of foster youth do not receive mental health treatment beyond assessment and crisis management which, over time, can worsen the impact of their initial traumas. This compounds the significant and lasting negative impact on outcomes for emancipated foster youth. On any given day, more than 434,000 youth are in some form of foster care across the United States. Of this highly vulnerable population, half will be unemployed, one-third on welfare, one-fourth homeless and one-fourth incarcerated. According to the National Association of Social Workers, 80% of US prison inmates have been through the foster care system.

The Solution

While A Home Within was incorporated in 2001, the model was first applied in San Francisco in 1994 under the name the Children’s Psychotherapy Project (CPP). Its founder, Dr. Toni Heineman, understood that there are simply not enough resources in the public sector to meet the psychological needs of foster youth. She also recognized that the public sector has very limited awareness of or access to mental health professionals in private practice, who in turn have limited knowledge of the needs of children in government care. However, she knew that there is a willingness in the private sector to donate time. A Home Within was founded to bridge this gap. A Home Within provides a sustainable practical solution by making use of the willingness in the private sector to donate time, and the wish in both sectors to meet the critical need of foster children. <br><br>By approaching the problem in this way, A Home Within lessens the strain on public mental health care providers and creates an extremely valuable conduit for sharing knowledge between both sectors. <b>But above all, it provides a way for foster children and youth to receive the emotional and psychological support they require, for as long as they require it.</b> Assisting them to overcome many of the significant emotional problems they suffer as a result of having grown in the foster care system; helping them become healthy, strong and promising members of the community. A Home Within now has fifty Local Chapters in twenty-two states.


<b>A Home Within:</b><br><br> <b>1. Uses existing networks:</b> The private practice model is one of "word of mouth". Private practice clinicians refer clients to trusted clinicians in their own communities, and spend time building referral networks to do so. A Home Within leverages these local networks by finding one senior clinician to act as a pro bono Clinical Director (Local Chapter head). His or her networks are then opened up to A Home Within to recruit therapists as volunteers at the chapter. We leverage the interest that private practice clinicians have in expanding their referral networks, and their professional education, and standing. It is important to recognize that altruism alone is not enough to motivate people. <br><br> <b>2. Uses private resources to meet public need. </b> There simply are not enough public resources to meet the needs of foster children. If we want to begin to support these very vulnerable children, in they way they require, then we will need more organizations such as A Home Within in the US, UK, Canada and many other countries. <br><br> <b>3. Shares leadership:</b> Our Clinical Directors know their communities very well - we do not. By sharing the leadership we put them in the driving seat locally – this is vital to our effectiveness. We support them in becoming stronger leaders, and we also act as a conduit to the national issues. To affect systemic change in a country this size we need to mobilize a vast number of people, and sharing leadership is allowing us to begin to do this. <br><br> <b>4. Nurtures non-profit networks:</b> We partner in knowledge-sharing, we do this freely, because it serves our mission. We conduct presentations and trainings, and act as an informational partner to the foster care, and mental health community throughout the country. This includes educating individuals such as caseworkers, staff in foster care agencies, attorneys, judges and CASAs (Court Appointed Special Advocates), and organizations such as Early Head Start, Independent Sector, Transitional Age Youth Conference, Zero to Three, World Association for Infant Mental Health, and Voices for America’s Children. This year, Toni was invited to participate in the summit on promoting healthy adolescent development, which was co-sponsored by The Center for the Study of Social Policy and the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative. <br><br> <b>5. Depth of relationship:</b> Relationships really do matter. A Home Within is the only national non profit focused exclusively on meeting the emotional needs of foster children, and the only one offering long-term open ended therapy. Because these young people often lack resources, never learned to parent, and are likely to be struggling with issues related to trauma and attachment, their children are six times more likely to enter the foster care system than other children. This vulnerable population needs long-term support from highly skilled and committed mental health professionals, without which the cycle remains unbroken. This is exactly what we provide at A Home Within. To date, we have provided over 2500 therapy years to the children and youth we serve in our clinical program. <br><br> <b>6. Minimal overheads: </b> A Home Within has one office location in San Francisco. At the fifty Local Chapter locations, A Home Within therapists see the foster children at their private practice locations. This allows us to keep overheads at a minimum and means we can devote more resources top recruiting more volunteers and building awareness.

Budget: $500,000 - $1 million


A Home Within is the only national organization focused exclusively on meeting the emotional needs of foster youth. We want to be challenged in the market place; our long-term aim is to make ourselves obsolete, because it becomes the norm for mental health professionals to offer pro bono direct services to undeserved and vulnerable populations.

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Comments & Activity


Tue, 02/28/2012 - 03:43

Hi Vic,

I think A Home Within is doing fantastic work and I think that your services will play an instrumental role in promoting the emotional development of foster youth and enable them to lead a stable and productive life.
Here are some Foundations that focus their grantmaking activities on the youth: The American Honda Foundation (http://corporate.honda.com/america/philanthropy.aspx?id=ahf), The Sprint Foundation (http://www.sprint.com/responsibility/ourcommunities/sprint_foundation/gr...), The Edward W. Hazen Foundation (http://www.hazenfoundation.org/grant-guidelines), and The Annie E. Casey Foundation (http://www.aecf.org/AboutUs/GrantInformation.aspx).

The following article elaborates on one of the objectives of the The Annie E. Casey Foundation which is to increase technological literacy of foster youth in order to enable them to make a smooth transition from foster care to independent living: http://www.aecf.org/upload/publicationfiles/care%20program%20needs%20ass...
I hope this research is helpful to you. Please let me know if you would like me to do additional research on Foundations in your area of interest.

Thu, 04/04/2013 - 14:22

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