In January 1970, I began working with a very innovative youth services project in the Dupont Circle neighborhood in Washington, D.C. A group of us twenty-somethings created a collective, known as Special Approaches in Juvenile Assistance (SAJA) that operated a runaway shelter, group homes, a "free" school, jobs co-op and a farm. I became the overall administrator for SAJA, keeping the books, doing first hiring interviews and providing staff supervision.
After a year as the Administrator at SAJA, opportunity presented itself via a job announcement sent by Huckleberry House in San Francisco. Huckleberry's was looking for someone to start a foster home program. The Bay Area suffered from a serious lack of viable living alternatives for Huckleberry’s teenage runaway clients. Huckleberry flew me to SF, offered me the job, and gave me 10 days to move my life from DC to the City by the Bay.
From the outset, I expressed to my employers my desire to “someday” have an agency to implement my ideas about supporting young people in family settings. Amazingly, they agreed that if I could get the foster care project to a position of financial self-sufficiency they would allow me to “spin-off” the program into its own separate entity. With that understanding and a handshake, I began work on February 1, 1973 and never looked back. It took five and a half years to attain financial independence, but on July 1, 1978 with kids, foster families and staff in tow, Alternative Family Services opened its door for business. Now, almost four decades since our beginning, one of those first foster children, is now a mother of five children of her own, serving on the AFS Board of Directors.