First Place for Youth


Oakland, CA   |


The mission of First Place for Youth is to help foster youth build the skills they need to make a successful transition to self-sufficiency and responsible adulthood.

Notes from the nonprofit

First Place for Youth was named in the top nine nonprofits in the US serving disadvantaged youth by Impactful Ninja in 2022.

Ruling year info


Chief Executive Officer

Thomas G. Lee

Main address

426 17th Street Suite 100

Oakland, CA 94612 USA

Show more contact info



NTEE code info

Human Services - Multipurpose and Other N.E.C. (P99)

Employment Procurement Assistance and Job Training (J20)

Low-Cost Temporary Housing (includes Youth Hostels) (L40)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Every year in in the United States, approximately 23,000 young adults exit foster care and are left to find housing, employment, and the means to support themselves, with no support from family. Moving away from family and into foster care can create trauma for chldren. Many children then repeatedly move from one foster home to another, with each displacement interrupting educational progress and limiting the formation of positive relationships. According to an Ameriprise Financial survey, youth transitioning to adulthood tend to receive emotional support for a lifetime and some level of financial support until their mid-twenties; those aging out of the foster care system find themselves receiving neither and as a result, are unprepared for independent living and at much greater risk of experiencing serious, negative outcomes than their non-foster peers: 40% are unable to secure stable housing; only 50% graduate high school; fewer than 20% enroll in post-secondary; 74% are unemployed.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

My First Place & Steps to Success

My First Place is an education and employment program that employs housing and intensive case management to provide stability to at-risk foster youth, ages 18-24, and assist them in building the skills necessary for success and long-term self-sufficiency in education, employment and life. Support services are provided by a dedicate team of Youth Advocate, Education and Employment Specialist, and Housing Specialist, and address multiple dimensions of need, including individualized case management, move-in assistance and supplies, roommate mediation, education and vocational counseling, life skills training, and community support.

Within My First Place is Steps to Success, an education and employment program that provides intensive one-on-one counseling and support to assist participants in achieving their education and career goals. Youth receive intensive, targeted academic supports, including remediation and tutoring as needed, to help them take tangible steps towards completing high school, enrolling or progressing in post-secondary education, or obtaining an industry-recognized certificate. In addition, the program supports youth with employment assistance, career exploration and planning, and in building their workplace skills, including job search and retention strategies.

Population(s) Served
Young adults
At-risk youth

The ILSP and First Foundation program offer a full range of academic and life skills services to assist more than 700 foster kids, ages 16-21, in San Francisco and Solano counties. First Foundation is a nationally-recognized, intensive program which provides intensive academic counseling to support foster kids still in high school who are academically behind and in danger of dropping out of school. The First Foundation program is part of the larger Independent Living Skills Program (ILSP) which provides academic counseling and career development assistance. ILSP serves foster kids who have less intensive needs, but still require support and access to community resources and referrals, along with an array of services including job search support, weekly life skills workshops, family finding and permanency services, and ongoing community building events. Both of these programs operate in San Francisco and Solano counties only.

Population(s) Served
At-risk youth

Where we work


Certificate of Accreditation 2021


Best Practice Model 2011

National Alliance to End Homelessnes

Leadership Award 2010

James Irvine Foundation

Children and Family Fellowship 2010

Annie E. Casey Foundation

Neighborhood Builders Award 2007

Bank of America

Community Award 2007

Tipping Point Community

Achievement Award 2013

National Association of Counties

Top 100 Non-Profits creating social impact 2014

Social Impact Exchange

Our results

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

How does this organization measure their results? It's a hard question but an important one.

Number of foster youth with housing arrangements

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Young adults, Foster and adoptive children, At-risk youth, Homeless people, Low-income people

Related Program

My First Place & Steps to Success

Type of Metric

Context - describing the issue we work on

Direction of Success


Context Notes

Reporting for the fiscal year ending 6/30 of the listed year.

Number of foster youth who obtained employment

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Young adults, Foster and adoptive children, At-risk youth, Homeless people, Extremely poor people

Related Program

My First Place & Steps to Success

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success


Context Notes

Reporting for youth who were employed during the fiscal year ending 6/30 of listed year

Number of foster youth who completed high school or equivalency

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Young adults, Foster and adoptive children, At-risk youth, Homeless people, Extremely poor people

Related Program

My First Place & Steps to Success

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success


Context Notes

Reporting for youth who exited program during fiscal year ending 6/30 of listed year, and who had entered program without a high school diploma.

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

First Place works to eliminate the disparities between transition-age foster youth and their non-foster peers and empower them with tools to lead healthy, responsible lives. Our nationally recognized program model shifts these vulnerable young adults away from poverty and toward self-sufficiency by providing a safe place to live accompanied by wraparound support. We actively reduce barriers to educational success and economic security with one-on-one support to help youth complete their high school diploma or GED certificate, enroll in college, and develop healthy living skills. We also support participants to develop professional skills, and secure employment. Through our Steps to Success program, we provide linked learning opportunities for our participants to receive the academic and job training support necessary to progress toward industry-recognized program certification.

Our most recent annual outcomes for participants upon program exit:

• 98% received a high school diploma or GED certificate, or were actively pursuing a high school diploma or equivalent.
• 87% successfully enrolled in post-secondary education (of those eligible)
• 93% remained in their apartment or moved into other stable housing upon exit from program
• 84% obtained employment, and/or realized a wage increase or promotion

First Place also advocates for systems change and supports the removal of legislative, regulatory, and systemic barriers that prevent foster youth from successfully transitioning to adulthood. With CEO Heidi McIntosh and Chief Regional Officer Hellen Hong, and supported by our full-time Policy Manager, Jane Schroeder, the organization is uniquely qualified to pursue changes at the local, state, and national levels. In the coming year, First Place will continue to use our data, along with our status as the largest provider of housing and supportive services in California to influence the regulatory agencies that have created barriers to youth success.

We provide foster youth, ages 18-24, with stable housing, ongoing intensive case management and critical education and employment support. By providing housing, we are best positioning our youth to accomplish critical employment and education goals. Each participant is assigned a Youth Advocate (Master's Level Social Worker) and an Employment & Education Specialist (EE). As a team, the three develop a personalized, supportive action plan with short- and long-term goals to guide their time in program. Housing Specialists also support youth in developing good tenancy habits and communicate with landlords, providing mediation between youth and landlord when necessary.

Specific services for success include:

First Place Apartment: Youth are provided a shared two-bedroom apartment (a single apartment if they are pregnant or parenting). First Place leases apartments throughout the community based on affordability and safety, accessibility to public transportation, and proximity to community resources and education and employment opportunities.

Independent Living Skills Training: Youth Advocates are limited to no more than 12-15 young adults on their caseloads and they meet weekly with each to develop their individual goals around education, employment, health, and personal relationships. Independent living skills are further cultivated through trainings in financial management, conflict resolution, identifying unhealthy influences, and setting boundaries with friends and family.

Individualized Education and Career Readiness Support: EEs support youth to complete high school or achieve a GED certificate, and once eligible, to enroll in college. EEs provide in-depth education assessments and academic tutoring. Youth enrolled at the post-secondary level receive help in course selection and identifying resources for financial aid and academic support. With the support of their EE, youth gain skills around employment readiness, including goal setting, resume and cover letter development, interviewing techniques, and job retention skills. Youth attend career panels and job fairs, participate in mock interviews, and visit work sites to explore career options. EEs support youth to enroll in linked learning programs to achieve industry-recognized certificates that lead to living-wage employment.

In addition to our direct service work in California, we provide technical assistance and data evaluation support to other organizations through our My First Place™ Network, allowing them to implement our model and/or to refine and improve their existing services. Current partners include Hopewell, Inc. in Boston, MA; New Path and Hamilton County in Ohio; Mecklenburg County in North Carolina; The Children's Village in New York; and the Mississippi State Department of Child Protection Services.

First Place for Youth was founded in 1998 to prevent poverty and homelessness among youth growing up in foster care. We were the first organization in Northern California dedicated exclusively to providing housing for this particularly vulnerable and often overlooked population, and we have grown to become the state's largest provider. We operate in six counties: San Francisco, Alameda, Contra Costa, Santa Clara, Solano, and Los Angeles. In Fiscal Year 2017, First Place served 1,460 youth across all programs, and provided housing and supportive services to 556 youth in all six counties.

First Place is guided by a strong leadership team under the direction of Chief Executive Officer, Thomas G. Lee. Before joining First Place for Youth, he launched and grew the Los Angeles Chapter of Friends of the Children. Under his leadership, the chapter became the fastest growing of 22 offices across the country, demonstrating at multiple regional sites how professional mentors can prevent entry into the foster care system to help end multi-generational cycles of poverty and foster care. During his tenure, Friends LA added services for relatives caring for the children of parenting foster youth, and for families noted to be at risk of entry into the foster care system. Before Friends LA, Thomas led Opportunity Youth Collaborative, which grew to nearly 50 organizations partnering with Los Angeles City and County to collectively remove educational and employment barriers and engineer better outcomes for transition-age foster youth. The Collaborative increased foster youth access to college financial aid, and helped create more youth-centered workforce development opportunities.

The organization is governed by an active volunteer Board of Directors whose primary responsibilities are to approve and oversee the financial health of the organization, ensure that policies and programs adhere to necessary code, law, and mission, as well as assist in the development of funds and other resources, and oversee the CEO. The Board of Directors meets four times each year and has five committees: Executive, Finance, Development, Governance, and Audit.

Our program model and strong outcomes have been recognized at the state and national levels. First Place has been featured as one of the country's most innovative and highest-impact organizations in Moneyball for Government, a book that encourages government at all levels to improve social outcomes by investing in programs that use data, evidence, and evaluation. First Place has also been selected as one of the top 100 nonprofits creating social impact by the Social Impact Exchange, a national association highlighting nonprofits that create scalable solutions to America's most significant social problems.

In addition, First Place has an active, robust fundraising plan that involves diverse resources, including public funding from local, state, and federal sources, foundation and corporate partners, and individual donors.

Since inception, First Place has helped fundamentally reshape the landscape for transition-aged foster youth using our successful outcomes to drive and influence the foster care field to adopt policies and practices that will help all foster youth live healthy, productive lives. First Place was a key participant in the development of a sustainable public funding source within the state of California in 2001, and played an instrumental role in the passage of California's Fostering Connection to Success Act. Our Policy Department has also worked with the California Alliance of Child and Family Services to draft a best-practices document for extended foster care (THP+FC) that will offer guidance to other providers on the legal requirements of operating a THP+FC program. And additionally, our Evaluation & Learning and Policy departments have been integrally involved in developing a toolkit for homeless transition-age youth (TAY) service providers and funders that will recommend strategies for deploying universal outcome measures for this population.

First Place is grateful for the opportunity to continue to attack ambitious goals to help older foster youth transition to self-sufficient adult lives. Since its launch in 2017, our My First Place™ Network has established in New York City, Boston and Springfield, MA; Cincinnati, OH, and the state of Mississippi. In Boston, Cincinnati and New York, our partners have rolled out the My First Place program to more than 100 youth in their care. In Mississippi, our partnership with the state and Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative is focused on building independent living skills, raising the voices of youth with lived experience in foster care and extending foster care from age 18 to 21 in the state.

How we listen

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Seeking feedback from people served makes programs more responsive and effective. Here’s how this organization is listening.

done We demonstrated a willingness to learn more by reviewing resources about feedback practice.
done We shared information about our current feedback practices.
  • How is your organization using feedback from the people you serve?

    To identify and remedy poor client service experiences, To identify bright spots and enhance positive service experiences, To make fundamental changes to our programs and/or operations, To inform the development of new programs/projects, To strengthen relationships with the people we serve, To understand people's needs and how we can help them achieve their goals

  • Which of the following feedback practices does your organization routinely carry out?

    We collect feedback from the people we serve at least annually, We take steps to get feedback from marginalized or under-represented people, We take steps to ensure people feel comfortable being honest with us, We engage the people who provide feedback in looking for ways we can improve in response, We act on the feedback we receive

  • What challenges does the organization face when collecting feedback?

    It is difficult to get the people we serve to respond to requests for feedback, It is difficult to get honest feedback from the people we serve


First Place for Youth

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The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.


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Connect with nonprofit leaders


Build relationships with key people who manage and lead nonprofit organizations with GuideStar Pro. Try a low commitment monthly plan today.

  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
  • Access beautifully interactive analysis and comparison tools
  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

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First Place for Youth

Board of directors
as of 01/05/2023
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Ms. Nancy Heinen

Partner & Former Chair SV2

Term: 2023 - 2020

Keith Shultz

RedFish Consulting

Andrew Monach

Retired, Morrison & Foerster

Steven LaFrance

Learning For Action Group

Nancy Heinen


Anthony J. Maggiore


Paul Harder

Harder+Company Community Research

Darryl Glass

Advent Properties, Inc.

Teresa Allen

Haddadd & Sherwin

Karina Anglade


Gilda Clift Breland

Attorney, Foster Advisors

Carrie Busch

Glass, Lewis & Co.

Chuck Daggs

Retired, Wells Fargo

Carol Rutlen Ezrati

Retired, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP

Jennifer Friedman

Desmond "Des" Lovell

Alliance College-Ready Public Schools

Marian Macindoe

Parnassas Investments

Darryl McDavid

Year Up

Ivor Nanton

Clorox Company

Sheri Paulo

Retired, Bank of the West

Angelica Salmeron

Alameda County Social Services

Keith Shultz

Redfish Consulting

Jinelle Yien


Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Yes
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? Yes
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? Yes

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 4/18/2022

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? Candid partnered with CHANGE Philanthropy on this demographic section.


The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
Black/African American
Gender identity

Race & ethnicity

Gender identity

Transgender Identity

Sexual orientation


Equity strategies

Last updated: 04/18/2022

GuideStar partnered with Equity in the Center - an organization that works to shift mindsets, practices, and systems to increase racial equity - to create this section. Learn more

  • We review compensation data across the organization (and by staff levels) to identify disparities by race.
  • We ask team members to identify racial disparities in their programs and / or portfolios.
  • We disaggregate data to adjust programming goals to keep pace with changing needs of the communities we support.
  • We employ non-traditional ways of gathering feedback on programs and trainings, which may include interviews, roundtables, and external reviews with/by community stakeholders.
  • We have long-term strategic plans and measurable goals for creating a culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.
Policies and processes
  • We have a promotion process that anticipates and mitigates implicit and explicit biases about people of color serving in leadership positions.
  • We seek individuals from various race backgrounds for board and executive director/CEO positions within our organization.
  • We have community representation at the board level, either on the board itself or through a community advisory board.
  • We help senior leadership understand how to be inclusive leaders with learning approaches that emphasize reflection, iteration, and adaptability.
  • We measure and then disaggregate job satisfaction and retention data by race, function, level, and/or team.
  • We engage everyone, from the board to staff levels of the organization, in race equity work and ensure that individuals understand their roles in creating culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.