Philanthropic Ventures Foundation

June 2012 


a newsletter for our donors and colleagues  


Helping Foster Youth Succeed
A guest post by Moira Walsh, Board Member
of Philanthropic Ventures Foundation

There are many children in the San Francisco Bay Area who do not have what they need. They do not have a warm coat, they do not have enough food, they do not have school supplies, bedding, bus money. Because they are victims of abuse and neglect, they have been removed from their homes and placed in foster homes, group homes, sometimes multiple placements over time in cities they have never been to before, with new schools and no family. These are children in the foster care system. Often, they are afraid, they feel alone, they do not have hope. How can we help? What is the intervention point? How can we make a difference?

As a long time volunteer for the CASA Program (Court Appointed Special Advocates) - a nonprofit that works with foster care youth through court appointed volunteers that are matched one-on-one to represent the best interests of a child in foster care - I saw children who were falling through the cracks, whose basic needs were not being met, and who were in trauma. These children live throughout the Bay Area and number in the thousands. I also saw caring, experienced professionals, social workers, many of them overworked, who were passionate about meeting the needs of these children and making a difference.  


Sharing my experiences with PVF, combined with PVF's substantial experience with social services and foster care youth, ignited the

A four-year-old's Social Worker wrote
in for a grant to cover ballet expenses,
to create a sense of normalcy in the youth's ever-changing life.

creation of PVF's Social Worker Resource Grants Program. The key was to tap into the direct relationship that a social worker has with a child in foster care to deliver to that child what is most needed, when it is most needed. Through the Program, Social Workers and CASA volunteers can make requests for funding of up to $250 to meet a foster care child's immediate needs. PVF responds to grant requests within 48 hours, meaning critical needs are met immediately, stopping a problem from turning into a crisis. PVF has been operating this Program since 1999, and has made over 2,600 grants totaling $600,000. The Program is funded by individual donors who hear about the Program and want to make a difference and help these children succeed.

The stories of need - for basic items - are revealing of the day-to-day existence of some of these children. For example, in May PVF awarded a grant for a 12 year old boy to purchase some new clothing, as he had been wearing the same pair of pants to school every day. His Social Worker wrote that the child budgeted the money, spending part of it for clothes now and, "saving part of the grant until school starts to go back-to-school shopping." The grant not only helped the boy with new clothes, but changed the way he thought about school, feeling proud and presentable.

Often requests are made on behalf of foster care teenagers, aging out of the system (emancipating), without any financial assistance or

A Social Worker requested a
grant to cover track expenses
for a youth who gained self confidence participating in her
high school track team.

support. Many need help with household items: pots and pans, sheets, a mattress; or with a security deposit on a first time apartment - items you would typically count on your family to help out with. Others are heading off to college and need help with "extras" such as school supplies or school books. Recently, PVF awarded a grant to help purchase college textbooks for a young woman. She wrote, "I am very grateful to your organization for your generosity. Gaining an education is very important to me, but often times difficult when you don't have the essential resources. I look forward to helping other youth as you helped me."


Over the years PVF has seen additional  outcomes from the program. It provides a significant morale boost to the hard working and dedicated professionals who work with foster care children and 

their families. Their work can be intense. They often move from emergency to emergency and have few resources to address needs. In a line of work where there is high attrition due to job burnout this is significant.


To bring hope or joy or relief to a child reminds these professionals of why they are in this line of work. As one Dependency Court Judge said,
"These kids don't have surprises in their lives. When they get something special it is almost a shock it is such a pleasure. Not only does it result in an enormous grin on the face of the child, it puts a smile on the face of everyone in the courtroom. This has enormous positive ripple effect."


The Program also provides hope to children, and in very tangible ways shows them that there are people out there who care. The power of hope cannot be underestimated. PVF has heard from many social workers that hope is often the difference between what makes a child succeed and not.  A youth who recently entered foster care wrote back after we awarded a grant, "Thank you for giving me the money, I really appreciate it. Since I've been having a hard couple of months without my mom and dad, this really helped bring my spirits up." Read more testimonials here

Join Us

Individual donors can partner with PVF in these efforts and contribute funding to the Social Worker Resource Grant program here

About the Editor

Bill Somerville has been in non-profit and philanthropic work for 50 years. He was the director of a community foundation for 17 years, and in 1991 founded Philanthropic Ventures Foundation where he serves as Executive Director. PVF is a demonstration foundation practicing unique forms of grantmaking and conducting innovative philanthropy. Bill has consulted at over 400 community foundations in the United States, Canada, and the U.K., on creative grantmaking and foundation operations.  His primary interest is in the creative and significant use of the philanthropic dollar.

Board of Directors

Duncan Beardsley, Chair


Generosity in Action  


John P. Carver

Retired Senior Vice-President

The Gap Inc.


William E. Green


William Green & Associates


James Higa

Senior Director

Apple Inc. 


Albert J. Horn


Carr, McClellan, Ingersoll,

Thompson & Horn PC


Bill Somerville, President

Executive Director

Philanthropic Ventures Foundation


Jackie Speier

U.S. Representative

12th District of California
Moira C. Walsh

Attorney and

Philanthropic Advisor


Colburn S. Wilbur

Trustee and Former President, 

David and Lucile Packard Foundation 

Board of Advisors

Janet Camarena

Director, San Francisco Office,

The Foundation Center


Leonard Edwards

Judge-in-Residence, California Administrative Office of the Courts


Kathy Kwan


The Eustace-Kwan Family Foundation 


Dien Yuen

Chief Philanthropy Officer,


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Social Worker Resource Grant Testimonials 

A CASA volunteer wrote to PVF that when he started working with a young man he was "a great kid who had a lot of anger and discipline issues." The boy had been removed from his mother's care because of ongoing abuse, and was placed in a foster home far away from family and friends. He went through several placements and even spent time in Juvenile Hall. He and the CASA volunteer bonded, getting together weekly, with visits continuing even
A Social Worker was awarded a grant to buy a youth a bike to encourage physical fitness and encourage social interaction with his peers.
while the boy was in Juvenile Hall. The boy turned himself around, he started improving in school, applying himself, and at the time the CASA Volunteer wrote in, the young man was slated to graduate from high school in a few months. The CASA volunteer requested a grant to buy books and a gym membership, both things the young man had expressed an interest in. The CASA was extremely proud of the young man and wanted to recognize more here

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Philanthropic Ventures Foundation, 1222 Preservation Park Way, Oakland CA 94612-1201

Telephone: (510) 645-1890  Fax: (510) 645-1892