iFoster, a non-profit organization that provides resources and opportunities to foster youth, partnered with the California-based supermarket chain Raley’s earlier this year to give children in foster care the opportunity for employment at its stores.
The announcement was made in late May. The move is part of the iFoster Jobs Program that has placed seven young people in Raley’s stores so far. Four more are in the process of being hired.
So far, all participants have been placed in stores located in Placer County. Raley’s stores in Rockland and Roseville were pilots for the program.
“Starting in California iFoster is actively seeking child welfare partnerships across the country to bring this program to your community,” said Serita Cox, co-founder and executive director of iFoster, in an online statement.
Transition-age, kinship and crossover youth aged 16 to 24 are eligible to join a seven-step program that involves a screening and interview process. iFoster completes a pre-employment phase with a cohort of potential employees before they interview and start working at the company.
“Most importantly we ensure the youth is not only trained on hard and soft job skills, important life skills,” said Reid Cox, CFO at iFoster, in an email message. “But we also make sure they are appropriately matched to a specific employer and job based on their core competencies and skills.”
Reid Cox also said executives in the grocery industry approached iFoster last fall. The executives saw the opportunity for a partnership.
“It is the largest employer in the U.S. with over 34 million employees and hire several million entry-level employees each year,” he said.
The grocery industry has about 32 million jobs available and a 70 percent turnover rate, according to Serita Cox. Another concern for executives is its aging middle management workforce.
“[The] jobs program – opportunities – falls under the umbrella of the resources youth need to become successful adults,” she said. “This always comes up as a top need.”
Richard Knecht, director of the Children’s System of Care in Placer County, agreed with Serita Cox.
“Young people in the system struggle with maintain employment,” said Knecht. It’s issue, he said, that can lead foster youth to homelessness and crime.
Knecht said that Placer’s integrated model of care for children made iFoster and Placer County “perfect partners.” The system allows all of the county’s child-care services to be delivered from one organization.
He called the program a “win-win” relationship for Raley’s and the involved youths.
Kat Maudru, a public relations specialist for Raley’s, agreed and said the company looks to expand the program to further stores.
“The hope is that this will be throughout all 118 stores at some point,” she said.
“There’s a lot of kids that really want a shot at the job and an adult mentoring them along,” Maudru said. “For some of [the youth] it’s the first time they’ve had a positive adult role model.”
Entering into the iFoster Jobs Program gives members exposure to scholarships, tuition reimbursements and certification opportunities through the grocery industry. Raley’s offers its employees in the program opportunities to advance within the store’s management.
Participants’ work experiences are also transferable to other career paths.
iFoster plans to expand its jobs program in 2015 to more California locations, the Seattle area and New York City. The company predicts it can match approximately 9,000 participants each year to jobs in the grocery industry.
Meiling Bedard is a journalism intern for “The Chronicle of Social Change” and a junior at Boston University.