For years Brenda (Knowles, co-founder of YTIA) and I had talked about creating a home for youths aging out of foster care. We had even put our thoughts and ideas on paper but we just never got around to doing anything about it. In the Fall of 2009 the discussions began again in earnest. We had become part of the Housing Coalition coordinated by Jose Chapa, a PAL (Preparation for Adult Living) Social Worker, and we saw first-hand how real the need actually was. Sure there were a few "transitional living facilties" but the need was much greater than the few beds they offered. In fact, the transitional living facilities were not too much different than being in foster care, or so we heard from the youths whom we represented. Our vision was much larger: a complex to house youths who would finally exit the system after years of being in foster care. Our target population: 18 to 22 year olds who wanted nothing more than to just leave foster care and make it on their own. We could all see just how difficult that prospect would be, but for a young person, the goal was just to get away from the strangers who had been dictating their lives 24/7. When you're young and full of dreams, nothing seems impossible! Brenda and I already knew how hard it was going to be to leave foster care because, without realizing or believing it, these young people had been coddled and protected. Over time, so many of the young people we had represented in the past, would call, sometimes for advice, sometimes for assistance, or sometimes just to see if someone still cared. In October of 2009, we decided to just "go for it" and with the assistance of our colleague, Mary Young, a transactional law attorney, YTIA was born. We filed corporate documents with the Secretary of State (Texas) and filed for designation as a (501)(c)(3) non-profit organization with the Internal Revenue Service. And that was just the beginning.
Mary E. Valdez is one of the co-founders of YTIA, an attorney with an interest in (hopefully) making things a little bit better.