By Shirley Hawkins
LOS ANGELES — Comedienne, author and actress Tiffany Haddish, currently the host of the CBS network show “Kids Say the Darndest Things,” was a foster child for six years when she was growing up.
Haddish was only 9 when her mother was involved in a car accident. Following the accident, her mother was diagnosed with a mental illness and institutionalized. Haddish became a ward of the state until she went to live with her grandmother at the age of 15.
Haddish never forgot her experiences in foster care. Keenly aware that most foster youth desperately need resources to navigate their path through life, Haddish founded the nonprofit She Ready Foundation in 2019 to help foster youth.
According to statistics, only 50% of foster youth will complete high school; 25% will become homeless and 40% will depend on some form of public assistance.
Other statistics show that 27% of males in the foster care system and 10% of the females will be incarcerated at least once in their lifetime.
There are currently 34,000 foster youth in Los Angeles County alone. According to statistics, 85% of them may never find a permanent home. Of those, 24,000 will age out of the system when they reach 18 and most will receive no financial or family support.
As a veteran in show business who has worked on numerous television and movie sets, Haddish became aware of the many different jobs available in the entertainment industry and was determined to open doors to offer internships and opportunities to foster youth in the realms of media, arts and entertainment.
This summer, after an extensive search, 15 transitioned foster youth were selected for internships with the She Ready Internship Program.
The program requires applicants to be a current or former foster care youth or youths who were incarcerated but are currently attending a community or four-year college in California.
Applicants also have to be legally authorized to work in the United States.
All interns will receive training, mentorship and ongoing support through the She Ready Leadership Academy hosted by the Positive Results Center. The program is part of She Ready Foundation’s five-part initiative to support foster youth.
“Our mission is to protect, provide resources and ensure normalcy for foster children,” said Thyonne Gordon, president of the She Ready Foundation. “We do that through partnering with organizations that support children in the foster system. This year it includes tutoring high school youth, providing internships seeking volunteers to become She Ready court-appointed special advocates, and of course, giving away luggage.”
Haddish said that receiving her first suitcase helped her through her foster care journey. She wanted to offer foster youth a suitcase to make their foster journey easier.
Organizations that have partnered with the She Ready Foundation include Travel Pro, which has provided new suitcases; the Children’s Law Center of California and television personality Oprah Winfrey.
Haddish is dedicated to helping build a world where foster youth can dream and live out their dreams in positive and productive ways.
“What is gratifying about working with the foundation is building an infrastructure where we collaborate and partner so that we finally hear the voices of those who often have their voice denied,” Gordon said. “I feel Ms. Haddish created a space where we’re building a collective circle that supports and protects foster youth.”
The She Ready Foundation can be accessed at www.shereadyfoundation.org.
Shirley Hawkins is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers. She can be reached at email@example.com.