December 8, 2023
California is consistently one of the top three states receiving unaccompanied children and in the country. Since 2014, California has received over 60,350 unaccompanied youth1. In Fiscal Year 2022 alone, there was a historic high of 13,730 unaccompanied youth released to sponsors in California. Acknowledging the dire gaps in expert knowledge needed for the community to provide supportive services to these children upon release, the Opportunities for Youth (OFY) project was created by the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) at Governor Newsom’s directive in 2019.
In October 2020, the OFY project launched across three California regions. Its implementation has been collaboratively led by CDSS; Harder + Co, the evaluators; Stephanie Canizales, Researcher and Ethnographer; and Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), the technical assistance (TA) provider. The community of practice also includes eight service providers that have successfully implemented the project: Canal Alliance; Oakland Unified School District; Centro La Familia Advocacy Services; Community Justice Alliance; Mixteco Indigena Community Organizing Project; Esperanza Immigrant Rights Project; International Institute of Los Angeles; and San Bernardino Community Service Center. Each agency has diverse experience serving immigrant populations and brings unique strengths and assets to the collective wealth of the network. Additionally, OFY’s community of practice also includes Hui International, a family support workshop provider that partnered with the providers to develop a program that fosters and supports healthy and responsive relationships between the youth and their caregivers.