Jessica Alba and Other Stars Turn Out to Support Pregnant and Parenting Foster Youth

Alliance of Moms held its Raising Baby event last Saturday at Children’s Institute, Inc., in Los Angeles, where a number of celebrities were in attendance, including Jessica Alba, Kristen Bell, Rachel Bilson, Michael Ealy and Jordana Brewster. Raising Baby is an education and health wellness day for current and former foster youth who are pregnant and parenting teens.

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Actresses Kristen Bell, Jessica Alba, Jordana Brewster, Rachel Bilson and Rosemarie Dewitt in Alliance of Moms’ shirts at the Raising Baby event on September 26, 2015.

The Alliance for Children’s Rights, the parent organization of Alliance of Moms (AOM), works to improve policy while also offering a variety of services for this population, including pregnant and parenting teen conferences, doula support, and legal support to meet health and wellness needs.

AOM was created when its founders became mothers themselves, and its mission is to build a community of moms who focus not only on their own children but also on the needs of those in foster care.

The importance of early childhood brain development was the theme of Saturday’s Raising Baby event. Without the event, many of these young parents might never be exposed to the topic, according to Janis Spire, CEO of the Alliance for Children’s Rights.

Dr. Dayna Long, a pediatric specialist at Children’s Hospital Oakland who led the Talk, Read and Sing workshop, also noted the significance of brain development. “Brain development is really important, and right now, you have the opportunity to build really strong brains in your children,” said Long.

Jessica Alba asking Dr. Dayna Long a question in the Talk, Read and Sing workshop.
Jessica Alba asking Dr. Dayna Long a question in the Talk, Read and Sing workshop.

Jessica Chandler, a former client of the Alliance for Children’s Rights who has two young boys, is now a social worker and heavily involved with the Alliance of Moms. Chandler led a workshop on talking to children.

“It’s time to start addressing the fact that these pregnant and parenting teens in particular might have experienced a lot of trauma and might not be as capable of raising young kids, something that the Alliance of Moms is seeking to change,” Chandler said before the workshop.

Spire commented on AOM’s collaboration with other agencies in the county. “I love that the [Los Angeles] County is involved, probation and DCFS [Department of Children and Family Services]. There’s a momentum of collaboration that seems to be happening in Los Angeles. It’s all around awareness, engagement and commitment.”

As evidenced by the attendance of multiple celebrities, the Raising Baby event capitalized on some of Hollywood’s power to increase awareness of and opportunities for a population that often lacks both. When asked about the dozens of volunteers supporting the event and the Hollywood star power involved, Spire stated, “We and our community partners can only bring so much. It’s a way to bring resources and support to these youth, to really see how all of LA’s resources are recognizing the need and coming in to help.”

Actress Kristen Bell passing around shakers during the Welcome Reception at the event.
Actress Kristen Bell passing around shakers during the Welcome Reception at the event.

“The Alliance of Moms are very genuine,” Spire said. “They’re not about showing up once and getting their picture taken. They’re all ready to help, and they really put a force behind their intentions.”

When asked about her interest in the event, Kristen Bell, an actress widely known for her roles in Veronica Mars, Gossip Girl and Frozen, said, “When I became a mom, I was finally feeling first-hand how challenging and amazing the job of motherhood is. It made me realize how important a familial support system is to the mental, emotional and physical health of any human being.”

Bell’s interest in foster youth was sparked through her friend’s involvement with Angels Foster Family Network in San Diego. “I really get inspired by her work,” Bell said.

Bell, Rachel Bilson, Jessica Alba and Jordana Brewster all participated in workshops and interacted with the youth throughout their time at the event. Jessica Alba’s company, The Honest Company, donated a number of items to the event that went in each of the youth’s customized “goodie bags,” including tote bags, wipes and various cosmetics.

Jordana Brewster, known largely for her roles in the Fast and the Furious chain, said, “This particular event is very hands-on. It’s nice to work face-to-face rather than just raising money.”

Yennifer, an 18-year-old parent at the event, said, “It [the celebrity involvement] caught me off guard. I think it’s a great thing. It’s nice to see how much they’re all like us and how much they really care. I never expected it.”

Matt Hartman is a graduate of UCLA, a child welfare advocate, freelance writer and nonprofit consultant. Matt primarily writes about social justice and political issues, with a special interest in child welfare. Follow Matt on Twitter @mattbhartman.

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