The County of San Mateo’s innovative employment program for emancipated foster youth which pairs them with coaches in a County department is being honored with a 2019 Agency Award for Excellence from a statewide human resources organization.

The Supported Training and Employment Program (STEP) provides recently emancipated foster youth ages 18 to 24 with coaching and paid work experience to ensure their success and financial stability. The award for STEP recognizes the San Mateo County Human Resources Department for a program that exceed expectations and go beyond the normal standards of a good government human resources program, according to CalGovHR, the HR professional organization bestowing the honor.

The County’s Human Resources Department and Human Services Agency (HSA) launched STEP in 2009 to help foster youth who have aged out of care or are non-minor dependents transition to adulthood. Participants in this year-round internship typically work 20 to 40 hours a week while being trained and coached in job readiness skills. The interns are matched to an entry-level internship with their own tasks and responsibilities, and create individual transition plans. More than 20 youth participate annually.

“This is a high achievement for the dedicated County staff that help make STEP successful and the hundreds of foster youth who’ve benefited from the opportunity of hands-on learning and coaching from them,” Human Resources Director Rocio Kiryczun said.

Supervisor Don Horsley, an early champion of the program, said STEP has offered great experiences to many emancipated foster youth throughout its decade of existence and provides the training, support and sense of family that helps them overcome obstacles.”

“One of the very first participants in the STEP program went on to earn a bachelor’s and a master’s degree, eventually returning to full-time employment with the County. Jazzalyn Lamadora was a terrific legislative aide in my District 3 office before advancing to a management analyst’s job with the Human Services Agency this year,” Horsley said. “I’m proud of her specifically and proud of the County’s STEP success overall. We are all pleased to see it earn the 2019 Agency Award for Excellence.”

STEP grew from the County’s recognition that foster youth without the benefit of family stability experience more challenges than their peers in becoming financially self-sufficient and independent. Compared to national foster youth statistics, STEP participants are significantly more likely to attend college and find employment. County data indicates that 76 percent of STEP participants enrolled or re-enrolled in college or a vocational training program and 69 percent entered employment.

San Mateo County Human Resources will receive the award at the CalGovHR conference this month. STEP was also honored in 2017 with a Challenge Award from the California State Association of Counties.