Teen launches app to attach getting older foster youth with grownup mentors

At simply 17 years previous, Layla Tehranchi has loads on her plate. She’s a senior at an all-girls highschool in Brentwood, co-founder of a nonprofit group and now she will be able to add the title of tech entrepreneur onto her rising checklist of accomplishments.

In August, Tehranchi launched FosterBuddy, an app that connects emancipated teenagers and foster youth getting older out of the system with mentors and professionals who’re concerned about making a long-lasting distinction within the lives of these in want.

For Tehranchi, it began with a dream, or relatively, a scarcity of 1.

Throughout an occasion hosted by her nonprofit, Coco’s Angels, Layla had a life-changing dialog with a foster teen who was getting older out of the system.

“I requested him in simply informal dialog, what his dream was, primarily what his dream was for all times,” Tehranchi stated. “And he advised me he had none.”

Delara and Layla Tehranchi, co-founders of Coco’s Angels, pose for a photograph at an occasion for the nonprofit on this undated photograph. (Coco’s Angels)

She began Coco’s Angels alongside her older sister, Delara. The group has raised greater than $300,000 for foster youth-related assist and companies, however Layla shortly found that some issues can’t be solved with simply fundraising.

“It simply dawned on me that cash would assist, but it surely wouldn’t remedy the issue for these youngsters who had been the identical age as me and for the youngsters whose outlooks on life had been so dramatically completely different than mine,” she stated. She requested herself what she might do to assist these within the foster system who are sometimes ignored or forgotten.

She thought again to a peer-tutoring program, which she additionally began, that referred to as upon highschool and center college college students to volunteer their time to assist foster children with their research.

“I believed to myself, ‘What if I might do one thing related, however now for emancipated youth who the county merely treats as, like, ‘not our drawback anymore’ as soon as they’ve aged out?’” she stated.

That thought led her to FosterBuddy.

However how Layla ended up on the trail to foster youth advocacy is a posh and deeply private story.

Her mom is an OBGYN, and in 2020, she appeared on “Dr. Phil” to lend her experience and steerage to a girl who was an everyday consumer of heroin and crystal meth. The lady was seven months pregnant and used medicine each two hours, she stated.

“She was heartbroken,” Tehranchi stated. “So after the the present was filmed that day, my mother reached out to [the mother] and she or he stated, ‘Look, I will provide you with free look after the remainder of your being pregnant, if you happen to promise me that you just gained’t do laborious medicine for not less than the period of the remainder of the being pregnant.’”

She agreed, and each girls adopted by way of with their guarantees.

A few week after the infant was born, a social employee advised the mom that the infant was going to be taken into the foster system since she didn’t have the means to maintain her. By some sheer coincidence, Layla’s mother was there and heard the dialog. Feeling compelled to talk up, she supplied to take the infant in, and the infant’s mom agreed.

That child’s title? Coco — Layla’s foster sister.

Since coming into their lives, Coco has flourished and surpassed each developmental milestone that they had hoped. Layla noticed firsthand the influence {that a} constructive setting and mild nurturing can have on a baby.

Within the years since, serving to foster youths has develop into her full-time job.

Whereas distinctive in some ways, Layla remains to be an adolescent, so the thought of making an app to make her new mission a actuality was a no brainer. She didn’t know how you can code or how you can begin a tech firm, however she dove in head-first to attempt to be taught.

She shortly found {that a} little bit of the method was past her grasp, and she or he started searching for assist. After being unable to search out the proper individual whose beliefs aligned with hers, she ended up connecting with a tech coder who shared her imaginative and prescient, a father of 5 adopted youngsters.

They started beta testing the app and determining to how discover mentors to supply their companies earlier than the app formally launched in August.

She says the app’s function is to encourage foster youth to be “excited concerning the prospect of what’s subsequent of their lives and, most significantly, remind them that they’re by no means alone.”

The app is fairly easy: foster youths create an account by filling out primary private data, write a short bio with the help of AI textual content software program ChatGPT, after which comb by way of a choice of matters of curiosity for what that subsequent step in life would possibly entail.

They’ll additionally select the gender of their most well-liked mentor, which Tehranchi says is necessary for most of the teenagers who join. The system will then present a listing of recommended mentors for the teenagers to select from. They aren’t restricted to the app’s solutions, and so they don’t have to attach with any mentor reaches out.

Screenshots from the FosterBuddy app present the app splash display screen and the mentor interface. (FosterBuddy)

For these concerned about changing into mentors themselves, the method is fairly related, however mentors undergo further screening to make sure the app setting is secure for youth and younger adults who are sometimes at larger danger of changing into victimized.

The screening course of is constructed into the app and is performed by Checkr.com, a distinguished and trusted tech firm that conducts background checks for main firms.

“It principally checks for felony information and sexual assault information in an effort to make it possible for these mentors aren’t predators in any manner, which is a very powerful factor actually,” Tehranchi stated.

The background examine additionally solely applies to mentors, not the foster youths searching for steerage. Tehranchi stated she didn’t need her app to exclude teenagers and younger adults who’ve touched the jail system or spent any time in jail.

As soon as linked, the mentor and the “mentee” start conversing by way of chat, with choices to develop to video chatting. Mentors comply with an intensive, in-depth handbook with a information of how you can be an efficient and acceptable mentor, Tehranchi stated.

The app has had a modest launch, with a whole bunch of sign-ups and hundreds of views since its August launch, which is okay for the FosterBuddy group.

“I needed to make it possible for every part was working and functioning appropriately … we did need to do about two updates only for small minor errors within the first week, which was why it was so necessary to begin out form of a minimal quantity,” she stated.

However Tehranchi hopes it is going to proceed to develop as phrase will get out, and the primary in-person promotional occasion for FosterBuddy will happen later this month.

Most of the teenagers and younger adults who’ve signed up for the app truly heard about it by way of Coco’s Angels.

Two former foster youths chatting with KTLA by way of electronic mail shared their tales and experiences with the FosterBudy app, in addition to their causes for signing up.

Benjamin, 24, stated he knew he wanted the steerage and assist of a mentor. Having grown up within the foster care system, he says he’s develop into resilient and has discovered how you can determine most issues out on his personal. “However I reached a sure level in my profession and my private life the place I simply couldn’t preserve doing it alone,” he stated. “I didn’t have all of the solutions and I wanted assist.”

He described his expertise with the app as “easy” and “genuine” and stated he hopes to proceed constructing a basis that turns into a long-lasting relationship along with his mentor.

Lesli, 22, stated she signed up for this system after it was really useful to her by way of one other foster youth group. She stated she needed further mentorship from somebody who understood her on a extra private stage.

“My expertise up to now has been actually constructive and actual,” she stated. “I met my mentor by way of Zoom and we preserve in communication by way of texts. Instantly I liked how caring and candy she was to me, not simply as a mentor however as an individual.”

Each Lesli and Benjamin say they’re constructing belief with their mentor and hope that they’ll develop into somebody they’ll depend on and speak in confidence to as they proceed on by way of maturity.

Layla and Delara Tehranchi alongside volunteers with Coco's Angels at a back to school event in September 2023. (Layla Tehranchi/Spotlight Public Relations)
Layla and Delara Tehranchi alongside volunteers with Coco’s Angels at a again to high school occasion on this undated photograph. (Coco’s Angels)

For Tehranchi, she hopes that the app helps convey hope to teenagers and younger adults who’ve in any other case given up on themselves.

Nonetheless only a teen herself, Layla says all of her ventures can develop into overwhelming, however the significance of her work retains her going. That is what she’s captivated with, that is what Coco’s story has taught her.

“As I run Coco’s Angels and FosterBuddy, it’s actually my biggest and largest hope that I can witness their progress in tandem, and kind of their simultaneous influence on minors and adults now within the foster care system,” she stated.

She additionally hopes any foster youths, or adults seeking to give again, learn her story and provides FosterBuddy an opportunity.

That, she says, could be her dream.

“I need each foster youth to know that this app is form of unlocking their capacity to dream and to form of have the ability to envision a future for themselves that they’ve been advised that they’ll’t have for thus lengthy.”

FosterBuddy is on the market for obtain on iOS gadgets now.


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