Sandra Rudnick has been a volunteer with United Friends of the Children (UFC) for 10 years. She is the founder and president of UFC Bridges, a nonprofit, volunteer-based organization that is the primary support group for youth who age-out of the foster care system. The foster care system only provides assistance to children through the age of 18. Thus, once a child reaches 18, he or she ages-out of the program. The goal of UFC Bridges is to help these young adults become self-sufficient citizens. Los Angeles County is home to the nation's largest population of foster children. Approximately 1,000 young people age-out of the foster care system annually. Most are alone and lack support networks to help them live independently. Each year, 40-50% of these young people become homeless.
Ms. Rudnick established UFC Bridges in 1994 to provide transitional housing and supportive services to young people aging-out of the Los Angeles County foster care system. The program now provides housing to 120 and is expected to reach a capacity of 300 by June 1999. Each resident develops an individualized time-limited plan, including interim and final goals. Social workers coordinate the educational and employment guidance of each program participant and conduct weekly independent living skills training workshops. Once the youth have sufficient income and the skills necessary to live independently, a project coordinator helps these young people find permanent housing.
The program is funded through grants and donations. Ms. Rudnick does not receive any compensation for her full-time volunteer work. UFC Bridges partners with the Los Angeles Department of Children and Family Services, the Community Development, Covenant House California, the Salvation Army, the YMCA of Metropolitan Los Angeles and the City of Los Angeles Housing Department.