Arizona Friends of Foster Children Foundation hires new president
Luis De La Cruz is the new CEO and President of Arizona Friends of Foster Children Foundation that helps children in foster care and foster families. The organization provides career development services to children aging out of the foster system through its Keys to Success program. Foster care youth learn soft and hard skills that set them up for success in a career path.
“When you look at the outcomes of young people that are in foster care versus the general population, they tend to be much lower,” De La Cruz said.
De La Cruz said success looks differently for everyone, and the program supports young adults in the career path of their choice. Recently there were 60 program graduates who are transitioning into adulthood and out of the foster care system.
De La Cruz himself was in the foster care system but went on to pursue higher education and worked for a successful consulting company. He said that he was very fortunate to have a loving foster family and a huge support system.
“The reason I can do this work is because I had a brother that didn’t (have support). We both came into the system, but our journey in foster care was very different and so were the outcomes,” De La Cruz said.
The organization supports kinship adoptions in which youth are placed in the care of other family members who cannot stay with their biological parents. Arizona kinship adoptions increased from 14% in 2006 to 38% in 2021.
De La Cruz said the group’s focus is to help support those relatives who take in the children. Only 29% of youth in Arizona ages 14 to 21 use federal support services including employment and housing when the national average is more than half.
“That number is too low. It tells us that we are not doing a good job at designing mechanism services, programs and support that allow for these young people to access them, thrive and to navigate them,” De La Cruz said.
Every year, around 1,000 young adults age out of the foster care system, but the organization lacks the funding to support more youth.
“It makes me sad because I know there is so much more that needs to be done, and we can’t do it,” De La Cruz said.
Learn more on the Arizona Friends of Foster Children Foundation website here.