YWFC is building an ecosystem that is an alternative to the way systems work now – it is a network of sisters and siblings that are lifting each other up rather than being torn down, communities that have the resources to provide housing, food, education and employment for their people rather than surviving on scarcity, families that have the support and resources needed to provide for each other and the healing needed to parent in the ways they want to, to raise the children that will be leaders in the future, and community institutions of freedom and liberation that operate on principles of positive transformation, harm reduction and transformative justice rather than punishment and oppression.
YWFC is committed to building confidence, self-determination and power of systems-impacted and formerly incarcerated girls, women and TGNC people toward changing the conditions that create intimate, community and State violence in our lives and that of our sisters and TGNC kin. We are deeply committed to non-pathologizing and non-criminalizing approaches that acknowledge our inherent brilliance and transferable skills.
We believe that this is only possible by supporting and investing in the leadership and building the power of those of us most impacted by incarceration and other public systems including foster care, welfare, public education, and the mental health system. For us this means meeting our people where we/they are at – on the streets, in jail and detention centers, and in the neighborhoods and communities where they/we live.
This starts with supporting immediate safety and then building upon individual and collective resilience. We practice decision-making and agency toward our individual and collective goals. We create economic and leadership opportunities through internships, employment, and engagement in advocacy and organizing. Together we build our personal and collective power, heal from trauma, advocate on behalf of ourselves and each other, gain access to education and work to transform the conditions, systems, and policies that lead to intergenerational cycles of violence, incarceration, and poverty.
Working within a harm reduction model, we stay with our people through their healing and transformation journey – as they struggle and recover, as they stand up and fall down, as they make healthier and sometimes harmful decisions, as they enter, leave and/or return to the system and/or their communities. Transformation of individuals, relationships, families, communities and systems take time and is not linear.
Peer-based Outreach, Advocacy and Crisis Intervention:
Peer advocates have been the most successful at finding and engaging the young people in YWFC programming through peer-to-peer referrals, community and street outreach. Once engaged, with rare exception, crisis response and stabilization support is the priority, including addressing immediate safety needs, safety planning, referrals and accompaniment to emergency services, and temporary safe housing. Our crisis intervention includes picking them up any time of night when asked.
Grounded in self-determination, positive peer relationships and relationships with caring adults, our weekly, two-hour Freedom Circles provide healing in which those further along in their healing are often modeling the process for those who are newer.
Circles will run in 12-weeks cycles over the course of 12-18 months with a focus on systems navigation support (i.e. support with adhering to probation or other court mandated requirements, support with relationships with case managers, lawyers, social workers, and other systems players, etc.), socio-emotional skills and sharing life planning.
Through these circles each young person creates a self-determination life plan that includes educational, employment and job training, healing support, health and other social services. Healing circles are facilitated by licensed mental health workers and community healers and delve into deeper issues of trauma, abuse, exploitation and gender-based and race-based discrimination, violence and disadvantage.
Self-Determined Life Coaching & Healing:
After stabilizing and receiving immediately needed support and services, participants are assigned a life coach to partner in designing a self-determined life plan. Participants will then receive 1:1 coaching on average once weekly, a minimum of once monthly, and as needed 2-3 times weekly.
Every three months YWFC does follow-up evaluation with participants to assess how they are doing and whether an adjustment is needed in their programming or services. The life plans identify goals vis-a-vis the systems they have been involved in, personal healing and growth, health and social service needs, housing, educational and employment goals, relationship building, safety and support goals. Plans include 6-, 12- and 18-month benchmarks.
Those desiring more intensive healing will have access to group classes and one-on-one healing sessions and healing workshops through our Women of Color Healing Collective, including trauma-informed yoga and creative art classes, acupuncture, body work, guided writing, dance and meditation. In addition, young people have access to therapy with a vetted group of licensed therapists with expertise in trauma and working with systems-involved and street-based young people.
Writing for Power:
Writing workshops with girls, women and TGNC young people and adults both inside the juvenile and adult justice system. Storytelling is a powerful tool to heal and to build personal power – it allows us to own and share our stories rather than those stories having a hold of us.
Sisters & Siblings on the Rise:
A self-determined personal transformation, leadership development and job training and internship program. Once people complete a self-determination life plan and Freedom Circle series, they are eligible to apply for a well-paid, intensive 9-month (300 hour) or 3-month condensed internship program with employment placement in social justice, local business or with YWFC. YWFC has graduated twenty-five cohorts from the program. Each year, each of our four sites will run 2-3 cohorts of 10-15 people per a cohort for a total of 80-180 graduates per a year.
Lift Us Up, Don’t Lock Us Down:
Develops emerging leadership from young people inside (girls, women and TGNC) in juvenile and adult prisons, including court accompaniment, advocacy, systems navigation, release and re-entry planning, personal transformation and healing.
Beyond Survival & Freedom Forward Fellowship:
Beyond Survival is a support, leadership and advocacy program for young girls, women and TGNC young people who have been exploited and “in the life” – the street economy. Graduates may apply to participate in the paid leadership fellowship, a program for young people directly impacted by sexual exploitation to develop leadership skills to advocate and organize for changes in the conditions that lead to their exploitation and the criminalizing of them for those conditions.
Young Mothers United:
Advocacy and support for pregnant and parenting moms to gain knowledge and support to interrupt the cycle of violence and trauma they have experienced and to heal in order to create healthier habits and routines as a parent. The program also provides education about reproductive and parenting rights as both free and incarcerated women, supports system navigation, provides childcare, and connects mothers to a network of trusted family serving community-based organizations, and develops skills for advocating for themselves, their children and their families.
Access to Education:
YWFC partners with Five Keys to provide on-site educational support towards securing high school diplomas and GEDs, and transitioning to community college. We also partner with Dr. Marilyn Jones’ program, Because Black is Still Beautiful to inspire, prepare and support young women in navigating college and seeking higher education and degrees.
In partnership with DeBug, YWFC organizes young people facing sentencing and their families to organize court support and advocacy to reduce sentencing.
Self-Determined Housing & Re-Entry:
Support for people re-entering after being incarcerated, including housing support and referrals, systems navigation, job training and placement and technology and life skills after being denied access while inside. In 2020, YWFC will pilot two re-entry housing projects in San Francisco and Los Angeles.