Friday, August 16, 2013

In My Shoes Celebrates 10 Years

In My Shoes, a member of AzCA’s family of agencies, is proud to announce our 10 year anniversary! In 2003, In My Shoes was created by a group of committed individuals composed of alumni of foster care and their closest allies in the child welfare system. The mission of In My Shoes is to ensure that young people experiencing out-of-home care will be supported through their transitional years to develop the competencies to realize their potential as adults. We serve our mission by offering peer-mentoring to youth living in the foster care system, signature events for youth, and trainings for youth, alumni, and professionals. The unique aspect of In My Shoes (IMS) is that all of the staff and mentors are adults who were once raised in the foster care system and are committed to helping youth recognize that they are Strong! Resilient! Amazing! individuals capable of great success!

In 2003, with the help from AVIVA Children’s Services as IMS’ fiscal agent, IMS became an operating program and received our first grant from Every Voice In Action. With an initial grant of just $8,000, we hired our first employee and celebrated our first mentor match! Within a year, we became an official organization and received 501(c)3 not for profit status. Within a few years, IMS secured state and behavioral health contracts and served over 500 youth annually through their various programs and events.

In 2010, In My Shoes joined up with Arizona’s Children Association and became a member of its family of agencies. Today, IMS is working on growing its one-on-one mentoring program statewide. IMS has teamed up with AzCA’s Independent Living Program to offer mentorship to youth transitioning from foster care to independence. Currently IMS has volunteers in the process of becoming mentors in Bisbee, Cottonwood, Flagstaff, Phoenix, Prescott, Tucson, and Yuma.

Our one-on-one mentoring program is intended to be a two year match for youth ages 16 – 17 to help guide their transition from foster care to adulthood. Although the youth and the mentor may celebrate the success of their match and formally dissolve their match after two years, their relationship typically lasts much longer.

“Many of our matches become more than just a mentor/mentee relationship. For many of us who have aged out of foster care, our In My Shoes family is one of the strongest connections we have. We become sisters, grandma/granddaughter, uncle/nephew, or whatever makes sense to each individual match,” said Christa Drake, program coordinator and co-founder of In My Shoes.

Tamra Shea and Tamara Hanover were matched in 2009 when Tamara was 16 years-old. Although Tamara moved to California when she turned 18, she still calls home to her In My Shoes family for advice and support.

“Tamra and In My Shoes is always there whenever I have questions, need to talk, or want someone to celebrate good news with,” said Tamara Hanover.

In My Shoes provides mentorship to teens in foster care, but they also offer support and family bonding for the alumni who have either been in the program or serve as mentors.

“The connection I have with my In My Shoes family is different than any other connection I have ever had with an organization. When I became involved with In My Shoes, I had already raised my son, was a successful career woman, and had a strong connection in the community. But, I never talked about my foster care experience to anyone, even my closest friends. In My Shoes has helped me open up about my own experiences. I am now proud of everything I have overcome and know that it was those experiences that made me the strong woman I am today. I not only talk about my own experiences to my friends, but I use my experiences to advocate for better services and support for children and youth still enduring the foster care system,” said Tamra Shea.

The unique model of IMS is supported by research which shows that peer support services are associated with improved self-esteem, decision making skills, and social functioning. Arizona’s Children Association is the only agency in the nation that offers peer mentoring services where all of the IMS program staff and mentors are foster alumni.

We need more mentors for foster youth! If you were once raised in the foster care system and would like to become a mentor, please contact Christa Drake at (520) 747-1533 or via e-mail at or click here to fill out a volunteer form. To donate to In My Shoes, donate online at or please contact Becky Holton at (602) 253-1620 ext. 2302 or

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