OUR origin story

In May of 2007, our Founder and CEO, Sarah Pauter, turned 18, graduated high school, and "aged out" of the California foster care system all at once. She was provided a $500.00 check for earning her diploma and told that the services she was reliant on since infancy were no longer available to aid her in the critical transition to adulthood. She was fortunate to have a full scholarship to a four-year university, but school and financial aid would not begin until the start of the fall semester several months later. Sadly, she found herself in the same desperate predicament that nearly 26,000 young people in foster care face each year when they emancipate from the child welfare system.

This experience compelled Sarah to advocate for AB 12, which would extend foster care from 18 to 21 and grant young people an additional three years to gain needed skills and resources to truly transition to independence and self-sufficiency. Her testimony and partnership with advocates, elected representatives, and fellow alumni of foster care helped to ensure the 2010 passage of AB 12, now widely referred to as Extended Foster Care, that serves thousands of youth each year. While the extension of foster care was a crucial first step in improving outcomes, Sarah and many others noticed a concerning gap in services for the rapidly growing number of youth who were pregnant, expectant, and parenting. 

Research shows that:

  • At ages 17 & 18, one-third of young women in foster care are pregnant or parenting
  • By age 19, more than half of young women currently or formerly in foster care are pregnant or parenting, and nearly half of those young women have more than one child
  • By age 21, 60% of young men formerly in foster care have impregnated at least one female partner

And while the rates of pregnancy are alarming, the concern doesn't stop there.

  • 1 in 5 pregnant teens in foster care receive no prenatal care
  • 66% of mothers and 73% of fathers do not receive a high school diploma or GED
  • Children born to young parents in foster care have a 4x increased likelihood of also entering foster care due to abuse or neglect

The vicious cycle of foster care and generational effects of childhood trauma led to the 2015 formation of Phenomenal Families, which provides tailored education and support to help at-risk young parents create happy, healthy, and thriving families. Through tailored education and support, we break the cycle of childhood trauma and help families have the best possible start.

To learn more about our mission and core values, click here.

At the core of Phenomenal Families is the fundamental belief that all parents, regardless of their own childhood adversity or system involvement, deserve the opportunity to experience the joy and happiness that parenthood brings. If we are to truly address the impact of trauma and interrupt its generational transmission, we must ensure they have the resources and tools to begin their parenting journeys with the best possible start.
— Sarah Pauter, Founder & CEO