How 100 Hollywood Moms Are Supporting Foster Kids Who Become Mothers
Star Jordana Brewster and activist Yasmine Delawari Johnson are among the industry women who've formed the Alliance of Moms, an auxiliary of the Alliance for Children's Rights, to bring medical care and educational programs to vulnerable L.A. teens.
This story first appeared in the Aug. 28 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
Entertainment industry moms constantly help one another out, whether sharing parenting tips or recommendations on Mommy & Me classes. "We have a lot of resources, which some of us may take for granted," says actress and writer Jules Leyser, 42, who's married to Channel 4 executive Crispin Leyser and is the mother of 2-year-old Felix.
But there's a vulnerable group of mothers who rarely have access to such resources: young women in foster care. So Leyser and four other advocates — activist and documentary producer Yasmine Delawari Johnson, 42, and Kelly Zajfen, 35, a former model who's now a clothing designer (both are married to attorneys at Ziffren Brittenham); Danika Charity, 34 (a doula whose husband is a commercial director); and Emily Lynch, 37 (wife of director David) — banded together a year ago to found the Alliance of Moms. It has rapidly grown to 100 members, including actress Jordana Brewster ("They've created something that's really snowballed," says the 35-year-old mom of Julian, 23 months).
Together, the women — an auxiliary group of the Alliance for Children's Rights — create educational programs for pregnant and parenting foster teens, connect them to doulas and raise funds for ACR (nearly $100,000 so far). "Los Angeles has the largest number of kids in foster care, 28,000, of anywhere in the country," says Delawari Johnson, adding that 75 percent of girls in foster care are pregnant by 21 — a rate attributed to attachment issues and limited access to reproductive health care.
"It's a big cycle to break," says Janis Spire, president and CEO of ACR, which also works with L.A.'s Department of Children and Family Services on pregnancy prevention. "What's great about the Alliance of Moms is their hands-on involvement," she adds. "They are sticking with these youth and not giving up on them." Among those served is Alliance client Ariel, 20, who spent most of her childhood in the foster system and gave birth to son Adrian four months ago. She says one of her biggest worries is falling off the new hopeful path she's set for herself — she wants to become a social worker, like Jessica Chandler, a former Alliance client who now is a social worker for L.A. County and a mother of two boys, ages 5 and 8. "I wouldn't have tried the Alliance program if it wasn't for the fear that my son would become me," says Chandler. "The worst thing you could ever do is make someone else suffer the things that you hated most in your life."
Ariel too is determined to protect her child. "The Alliance of Moms has shown me the difference between the life I was living — I used to run on the streets — and the life you should want to live," she says. "I don't want Adrian to ever want."
Read more from THR's philanthropy issue below.