Jenny Serrano

 [(political science educator + program development) x alumni] = RESILIENCE

Jenny is a program director for the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). She oversees programs for transition age youth in the areas of scholarships, workforce development, credit checks, post-secondary education and transportation. She has also served as an Independent Living Program manager and Special Assistant to the Deputy CEO of the County before moving to DCFS. Beyond her work for the County, Jenny is an Associate Professor at Cerritos College who teaches political science. She is motivated to improve systems serving foster youth as she is an alumni from foster care.

QUESTION: Why did you get involved in the Fostering Resiliency project?

ANSWER: As a successful adult, despite my foster care experience, I believe that the key was the development of adaptive strategies in the face of my many challenges. I often wondered what set me apart from other foster youth I knew as I watched them struggle through their experience. I hope this research helps to identify why some alumni can persist through such insurmountable odds. If we can define this then perhaps we can bottle it up so that future foster care generations will thrive.

QUESTION: What impact do you think this discovery would have on service providers in child welfare?

ANSWER: In my life outside of working for LA County I am a political science instructor. I am always talking to my students about the influence of policy on the experience of vulnerable populations. The policies that exist today have a limited impact because foster youth have too many environmental concerns to access the laws and supportive services, such as a lack of housing and financial resources. I can only imagine how services would improve if they better understood the cultural and adaptive strengths foster youth possess.

QUESTION: Do you think that policy development is the key to child welfare reform?

ANSWER: An opportunity like this research has a great chance to influence the development of productive policy to reform the system. However, the value to me is in getting foster youth to understand the importance of the strengths and assets that they already have. In child welfare we are always talking about strength-based approaches, but this is the most genuine effort I have seen to truly capture the essence of what that means.

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