Peer Advocates Program

To ensure the maximum level of youth engagement, CLC established a peer advocacy program in Los Angeles that employs former foster youth from diverse placement, educational and cultural backgrounds.

CLC’s peer advocacy program provides a forum in which current foster youth connect with their peers while gaining an understanding of how the California Fostering Connections to Success Act can help them successfully transition out of the foster care system as they gradually take on more responsibilities and gain more autonomy.

Having “walked in the shoes” of the youth, Peer Advocates focus on helping youth learn to make the most of their opportunities in foster care, assist in formulating a plan for life after foster care, and build advocacy skills that will assist youth during these important steps. The peer advocates conduct outreach to foster youth who may be eligible for AB 12 but are unaware or unconvinced of its benefits. They also assist those seeking to re-enter foster care after their case has closed by helping them complete the necessary paperwork, connecting them with housing and resources and providing much needed moral support.

Marisa Rodriguez

Despite the challenges I faced while in the foster care system, I earned my Bachelor of Arts in Social Work from CSU, Long Beach. During my time at CSULB I studied abroad in Puerto Rico, Mexico and Cuba, and helped establish the first foster youth student organization that empowers students to raise awareness about issues affecting foster care through peer mentorship and networking. Also, I have interned for Latino Family Institute, providing support to Latino families throughout their journey to adoption. As a Peer Advocate, I enjoy being a mentor and advocate for foster youth so that they feel empowered and are prepared to take on any of life’s challenges.

Sondra Sanford

As a former foster youth I can relate to not having a strong family support system and to the difficult transition to life after emancipation. Despite these obstacles I have climbed the ladder to higher education and graduated from California State University, Northridge with a Bachelor’s in Sociology. I have enjoyed mentoring foster youth through my internship with the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) and with Happy Trails, a summer camp for youth in care. I feel privileged to be a role model for these youth and I am thrilled to be a part Children’s Law Center.

Marcelina Valenzuela

My experience in the child welfare system as a foster youth, probation youth, and legal guardian for my siblings has given me a deeper understanding of the foster care system and has prepared me well to serve as a Peer Advocate for transition age youth.  Although I faced many difficulties during my time in foster care and was often seen as a “hard” youth, I have been able to use these personal experiences to connect with youth in a unique way. For the past eleven years, I have been involved in youth leadership development and advocacy.  I am passionate about helping people see the light that is inside of them. I recently graduated from Rio Hondo College with my A.A. in Criminal Justice, and I am excited to work with CLC and hope to make a difference in the lives of our clients.

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If you need assistance or are interested in learning more about the California Fostering Connections to Success Act (AB 12/212), and how you might be able to take advantage of this new law, please contact