Jennifer Rodriguez

In her teens, Jennifer Rodriguez bounced between foster group homes, youth shelters and juvenile hall. Today, she has a law degree and runs a nonprofit that works to improve foster care. Rodriguez joins us to share her story and the lessons she’s learned from a lifetime of involvement in the system. We talk to her as part of Forum’s series on foster care in California.

Jennifer Rodriguez, executive director, Youth Law Center

  • William – SF

    I have full praise for Ms Rodriguez for what she’s had to overcome, her survival skills, and her accomplishments – it’s remarkable. Please write a book about your experiences.

  • Yusuf Anthony Ahly

    Great show you guys I was a group home kid. Jennifer know what’s she’s talking about

  • Gee Whiz

    A close friend was sent to a boys’ home in NY after his mother shot his father at the age of 9. In the home, he was beaten daily for 2 years by the other boys because he was the only Hispanic. After being returned home, his beating continued by his mother. He eventually ran away and lived alone in abandoned buildings through his high school years, avoiding Children Services. Today, I am always surprised that he is so kind and generous to those less fortunate than he, even though he has so little.

  • Liz478

    You are such an inspiration; overcoming everything that you had to go through, to become a lawyer and going back to change other children’s lives. Thank you for sharing your beautiful reflections, and THANK YOU for your work.

  • Elizabeth Kelly

    First, Jennifer, you are an amazing inspiration on so many levels. Thank you for all your hard work for others and yourself What would you say to those who are interested in fostering kids but are concerned about their behavior (as a result of trauma they have experienced up to this point) might be very difficult to manage or discipline? I have heard many people say they would like to foster, but that holds them back. How would you suggest to overcome this issue on both ends?

  • Anonymous

    Amazing!! I grew up in the Mission and was also not parented w a mom w mental health issues and a father in federal prison but by some stroke of luck I did not end up in foster care. I was terrified that I would as I would have entered as a teen like yourself and I was already traumatized and I could not imagine surviving what you went through. You are an amazing person and woman. I admire you tremendously. I am an LCSW now and have worked w physically and sexually abused children & adult women. I believe that because of my early experiences I can better advocate for them in a way that others may not. Thank you for everything you have done for children/teens.

  • SF sanibel

    I think it’s wonderful what you’ve done in your life-strength & perseverance. You are amazing. Your interview this morning resonates with me as I spent many years in the system, in institutions, orphanages, foster homes, etc. I worked as an RN for many years, graduated at age 54 from Law School, practiced in Workers’ Comp/Personal Injury for a few years, now retired. May you continue to have a wonderful life and do wonderful things…the kids are lucky to have you in their corner.

  • April

    First, you are amazing. One of the questions I have is how families might be able to support kids after they age out of the foster system. I remember hearing a story about a girl that was in the foster care system. She was fortunate to be able to go to college and live in the dorms after leaving foster care, but during the holidays and summer was kicked out of the dorms, had no support and was essentially homeless. In addition, I feel 18 is still a kid really, and emotional, financial, and logistical support is still needed. To have a mentor or family to call or visit or help in general would seem to be critical. I would love to know if there is a program that facilitates a relationship between mentors to kids in group homes as additional support and perhaps be a bridge to those kids after they age out of foster care and move toward independence? Obviously being a foster parent would be the best alternative, but a mentor program might lead to that as well.

  • Susan Murphy

    Thank you Jennifer. Every child deserves a family and we must do everything in our power to find the best home we can for every child. A group home is not a home, it is OUR FAILURE.

  • Robert Thomas

    This was a fine interview and discussion.

    The performance of California’s foster care system should be among the top five concerns both of the state executive and the legislature and also at the top of our county and municipal government’s agendas. Scrutiny by the press is crucial. Thanks, Ms Rodriguez and thanks, KQED.

  • FCS Silicon Valley

    Thank you for bringing attention to the foster youth experience. We serve youth transitioning out of foster care into independence in Santa Clara County, and we are grateful for programs like this that increase awareness. We also are thankful for stories, like Jennifer’s, that show youth we serve that they have options and can pursue their dreams.

  • MonkInSF

    Thank you for shstaring your story. You are the example of human perseverance and strength.

  • Dannyboy63

    I called into the show yesterday and mentioned that my foster youth was in a terrible group home until recently, I’m his CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) – a volunteer role that I love- where I connect with, and advocate for, my youth in ways that no one else can (I have no obligations to to anyone except my kid). What I didn’t mention on the show was that the group home he was in was cited by the New York Times as the worst in the country! My hands were tied when he was there- I had no idea there were group homes any better than this one, Now he’s in a much better one- but why, oh why, are group homes like REFUGE allowed to operate? And who’s keeping an eye on them? Read the last line of the article- that highlights the problem perfectly. Our officials are abdicating their responsibilities to the youth who are being traumatized. Here’s the article:

  • Francis

    The Refugee Foster Care program at Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County is hosting an Info Session for all those who are interested in fostering a refugee child. The event will be held on January 9th, 2015 from 10am-12pm. RSVP at:

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