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Life & Work with Barnaby Murff

Today we’d like to introduce you to Barnaby Murff.

Hi Barnaby, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstory.
Founded in 1994, Extraordinary Families (ExtraFam) serves children and youth in and aging out of foster care throughout Los Angeles County. ExtraFam’s mission is to help children and youth in foster care to have the childhoods and futures they rightfully deserve. Our vision is that every child, youth, and family in child welfare will have the ability to achieve their hopes, fulfill their dreams, and thrive.

All children in foster care have suffered complex trauma that most of us cannot comprehend – the abuse/neglect that led to removal from their primary (birth) families and the heart-wrenching removal from everything and everyone they’ve ever known. As such, all aspects of Extraordinary Families’ programming are approached through a trauma-informed lens. Our model reduces childhood trauma, encourages safety and stability, and empowers youth to thrive.

As a leading foster family agency in LA County, we aim to give vulnerable foster children, youth, and young adults recently aged out of foster care the stable, caring, loving home and wraparound supports they need to achieve their full potential in life. Our child-centered philosophy focuses on the needs of each individual child, meaning we find families for children, not children for families.

As a result of our high-impact work, 98% of our children experience only one foster home while under our care. This is astounding compared to the national average – according to NIH, “The total number of placements per youth ranges from one to 39. The average number of placements is 8.3.”

Since our founding, ExtraFam’s motto has always been everyone is welcome – all races, ethnicities, national origins, income, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression. Of our families, 88% had either a child or parent or both who identified as BIPOC and 34% of our foster parents identified as LGBTQ+. Of 94 transition-age youth served this year, 97% identify as BIPOC and 30% identify as LBGTQ+. In 2009, ExtraFam was the first private organization to be recognized by the Human Rights Campaign “All Children – All Families” project as a leader in supporting and serving LGBTQ+ youth/families. We are honored to receive this distinction every year and have attained their highest level, Innovator.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
We are a specialized non-profit focused on individualized attention and the highest quality care. Children and youth are at the center of all we do. As such, it is our responsibility to ensure supports are in place to provide these children safe, loving homes – and this starts with highly-trained resource (foster) parents. We are always seeking parents to care for children in need – for a week, a month, a year, or if they need a forever home through adoption. With more than 30,000 children in Los Angeles County’s child welfare system alone (the largest in the nation), there are never enough parents (or homes) to meet the need.

Extraordinary Families recruits, trains, certifies and supports resource (foster) parents to care for children who need a home – yet our government contracts do not cover the totality of these services. Public dollars only flow once a child enters our care, leaving the recruiting and training to private philanthropy to cover. This is our ongoing conundrum – we cannot help a child without a resource (foster) family. We rely on the generosity of donors to fill the gap.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
I have made my career in the nonprofit sector for the past 25 years. Supporting missions that promote empowerment and improve the quality of life for children and families has been the cornerstone of my work, serving such organizations as The Music Center, The Colburn School, LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes, and the Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust. My background guiding institutional advancement focuses on building strong and lasting relationships with clients, stakeholders, partners, and the community. I believe deeply in our ExtraFam values of Empathy, Dedication, Integrity, Collaboration, and Justice so that we can create a stronger network of support for all.

How can people work with you, collaborate with you or support you?
We welcome your support in a variety of ways. People can join us by elevating our name and the cause of foster care within their networks and on their platforms. Child welfare is often seen as the government’s problem to solve, but it takes all of us working together to care for our community’s children and youth without voices. We need to rewrite the narrative about children in foster care and open ourselves up to help. Kids need a stable, loving home and a chance to thrive. Children enter the system due to no fault of their own, and amazing things happen when they receive the same love and care that their non-foster peers enjoy.

In addition to awareness and advocacy, we invite you to ask about how to become resource (foster) parents or mentors to our young adults transitioning into adulthood. Support for foster children and youth does not stop once they age out of the system. Often young adults aging out of the system do not have a lifelong support system to lean on in trying times. Youth struggle with meeting their basic needs such as maintaining housing, pursuing education, employment, and more. Our UP4Youth program supports these youth by connecting them to a mentor who can help guide them as they enter self-sufficiency and adulthood.

Lastly, as a nonprofit, we need ongoing support from partners in the community. As mentioned, we rely on philanthropic support from individuals to ensure children entering foster care have a safe place to land for as long as they need. We couldn’t do this work without our friends and kind donors.

Pricing:

  • Our Foster Care and Adoption services are free. We recruit, train, and certify parents to become resource (foster) parents. We provide evidence-based training, case management, and use peer support groups to help new foster parents understand and address the unique traumas of children in foster care. Our Ambassador program matches new parents with experienced foster parents to help them throughout their foster experience.
  • Our UP4Youth services are free. We intend to not only provide loving homes for children while they’re in foster care and/or adopted, but to dramatically improve care for those who aged out of the system without adoption. This program, for transition-aged youth 16+, fills their quivers with important skill-building, agency-increasing, empowerment-manifesting tools that aim toward a sustainable life. UP4Youth has 4 pillars: resource coordination (meeting their basic essentials), employment services, education planning and support, mentoring – and provides 1-on-1 case management/coaching based on each youth’s unique history, challenges, and goals.

Contact Info:

  • Email: media@extraordinaryfamilies.org
  • Website: www.extraordinaryfamilies.org
  • Instagram: @extraordinaryfamilies
  • Facebook: @extraordinaryfamilies
  • Twitter: @XtraordinaryFFA

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