Transitioning from school to work can be difficult for
anyone, but for some teens in foster families, it can be particularly
To help those students overcome some of the common
difficulties and get valuable work experience, San Diego County Office of Education’s Foster Youth Services Coordinating Program and Homeless Education Services unit oversees the Pre-Employment
Traineeship program, also known as P.E.T.
“It really helps you in many ways,” said a 14-year-old who participated
A team of three coaches helps guide 30 to 40 students from
throughout the county each year by providing training, support and weekly site
visits. The work is in partnership with the local branch of Casey Family
Programs, a nationwide nonprofit group focused on foster care, and
Promises2Kids, a program that responds to the diverse needs of foster children.
The added help is important to help youth in foster care
grow into successful adults because many of the children haven’t had the
guidance that others have, said Violeta Mora, a project specialist with SDCOE’s
Foster Youth and Homeless Education Services unit.
“Stability is the main thing that we’re trying to do,” she
Social workers recommend students between the ages of 13 and
15 for the program each year. For four weeks over their summer break, the children
spend 20 hours a week at a participating organization, learning important soft
skills such as how to handle the responsibility of a job and how to relate to
other people. This year, there were 19 sites taking part, including local
businesses, nonprofit groups, schools and libraries.
“The experience of seeing my teen grow and become more
responsible in part due to P.E.T. was priceless,” said Rodney Bates, a social
worker who recommended one of the students involved in the program this year.
A 15-year-old student who has participated for the past two
years said the program offered “a heads-up on life and the first taste of salt
Not only do the students get important experience and
mentoring, they also get a stipend based on their performance.
Sam Rigby, a program aide and one of the coaches, said he
likes the interaction with the students and knowing that the program is
boosting their confidence.
“You can see them really grow,” he said. “It’s important for
me to see them succeed and get the experience they need.”
To prepare students for the program, coaches give them
work-readiness training that includes introductory skills in business
etiquette, grooming, completing a job application, interviewing and writing and
The program focuses on five behaviors: attendance and
punctuality, workplace appearance, following directions and accepting feedback,
taking initiative and being accountable, and interacting positively with
supervisors and co-workers.
“Those are key concepts that allow you to be successful
anywhere in life,” said Mindy Kukich, also a project specialist with Foster
Youth and Homeless Education Services.
Some students have even been asked back in subsequent
summers or landed part-time jobs after participating in the program.
In addition to the P.E.T. program, the Foster Youth and
Homeless Education Services unit also oversees tutoring programs and
educational liaisons that work through the county with Child Welfare Services.
Photo: The Pre-Employment Traineeship staff is, from left, Mindy
Kukich, Sam Rigby, Dr. Michelle Lustig, Violeta Mora, and Michelle Bailow.