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A Golden Legacy...Bea Arthur's Residence for LGBT Youth in NYC

It was hard not to get choked up reading about the legacy that Golden Girls actress, Bea Arthur, left to homeless youth in NYC. In fact, it was her generous end-of-life gift that allowed for the Ali Forney Center, a transitional housing program, to even keep its doors open when they were on the brink of closure and had nowhere to turn for financial help. The Center serves youth that have been kicked out of homes or abused because they came out to their families as being gay, lesbian or transgender. In need of a safe place to live and heal, the Center provides housing and social serving over 1,000 youth in need each year.

It's not hard to imagine what their lives could be like without this crucial institution. The Ali Forney Center is literally saving lives. What is hard to imagine is that families would disown children because of who they are. It is important to remember that youth in our society can become homeless for many reasons and that it is our duty as a society to make sure they have places to turn where they can feel accepted and wanted. Bea Arthur understood the situation and made a commitment to give herself to this cause, raising funds and bequeathing money in her will.

At Casa Valentina, we work each and every day to provide safe, affordable housing for former foster care and homeless youth. Many of our residents proudly identify as LGBT, and we are humbled to be that safe space for them during such a crucial time in their lives. We know full well how important systems of support are when youth are faced with nowhere to go and no one to turn to. We are grateful to our Casa Valentina champions for supporting our work throughout the years, and welcoming the many exciting changes and growth that is sure to come our way in 2018!

The Summer Style Skinny...

Even though ripped jeans are both for men and women to rock, dresses are taking over the spotlight in the feminine world. From a long maxi on a busy day of running errands to a glamorous lace worn on a dinner date. As summer approaches young women are hanging up the heat and stepping out to feel the breeze.  The most popular seller out of the fashion stores is the slip dress paired with almost anything - blazers, high heels, simple sandals, knee high or combat boots and even shirts! It might sound strange, but some women prefer not to show so much skin, and still look great by throwing the dress over a t-shirt recreating the iconic 90's look. Although the dress might not be appropriate for all's prefect for a night out or a stroll downtown. It's going to be the main attire this upcoming summer so heads up.

Even in Miami's bipolar weather, I predict flared dresses to be the key item of fall. It might not feel like fall in South Florida, but that doesn't mean it isn't autumn, right?  This dress is a woman's all-time favorite piece to wear to everywhere, from special events to low-key date nights, in complete comfort. Just like the "slip dress," the flared style provides a looser fit, but with fewer accessories and tons of patterns and colors to choose from, a woman can always be picture perfect. The question is which piece of fabric is going to win this year? Will it be the diva slip? Or the fancy flared? But it doesn't matter the switch up is endless.

Accessories are key for adding a "POP" to any ensemble. Big, bold, small and cute...Lose them, cherish them, break them and repair them. Some outfit will be useless without them and incomplete. Not advising you to go over the top, but a little bit of flare will catch some eyes. What will be the next big thing? No one knows; we'll just have to wait and be surprised this year.

One of my biggest dreams is to one day start a fashion empire. Here at Casa Valentina, I'm working hard along with our Education Director to be able to pass all my classes, and transfer majors into a fashion program. It's been an incredible journey to get to this place: from foster care to fashion...and I will continue to hustle for my dreams. I think that's something a lot of people forget about youth in foster care: we're just regular kids who have dreams and goals, and we might need a little help to get there, but our pasts don't define us. We are smart, strong, and hopeful.

The Fashion Deon

Today's blog is about fashion. Recently, many young adults have been seen sporting ripped jeans and old school sneakers. Style is a way to express yourself and ripped jeans can symbolize freedom from the normality of regular jeans or slacks. Also, the style of ripped jeans is common for young adults because they go perfect with old-school sneakers, like Vans or Converse, which are cheap and easy to wear.

The point of this passage, is to explain the different reasons why people might wear ripped jeans. For example, they are comfortable, stylish, and set you apart from people who don't wear rips in their jeans. The flexibility of having rips, allows you to move freely and can provide air insulation on a hot day. Several celebrities - both male and female - have been spotted wearing ripped jeans, causing their fan base to follow the same trend. Though not socially acceptable in an office setting, ripped jeans are becoming more of a phenomena, amongst young business owners who look to attract a younger clientele. 



We must become the change we want to see in the world. - Mahatma Ghandi

At Casa Valentina, every day we strive to become a positive catalyst for change to help the amazing young people the become an important part of our live. Our mission, to provide at risk youth and youth transitioning from foster care to independent living with affordable housing and various support services, is more crucial now than ever. Check out these statistics:

More foster kids end up in institutions or group homes rather than pre-adoptive or foster homes.
Foster children are two times more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress than returning veterans
Foster children have a high risk of being hospitalized for serious psychiatric disorders and/or attempted suicide.
As you read these alarming facts, keep in mind that in 2013 alone, 23,000 young adults phased out of the foster care system, over 300 of them resided in Miami Dade County alone. Casa Valentina provides young adults transitioning out of foster care with valuable tools and resources that will help them navigate through society in a productive, healthy way. One of the main ways we do this is by enlisting successful leaders in the community to impart their knowledge and advice to the residents in the program. We would like to acknowledge Noa Pantaleon, of TRX Fitness, and Walter Russ, of First Step Mobile Health & Safety Services, for their contributions to our Life Skills Program.

Noa Pantaleon, Personal Trainer for TRX Fitness

Noa shared his knowledge on fitness and health with our female residents. Our girls got a first-hand work-out experience! His Life Skills course offered insight on the importance of good eating habits and physical activities. They were also taught workout sequences and practical ways to implement fitness into their daily lives.



Walter Russ, Director at First Step Mobile Health & Safety Services

Walter taught a Life Skills course on first aid and CPR. Our residents became CPR certified during his demonstration. His course was informative, hands-on and taught our residents how to perform CPR on adults, children and babies. They were also taught Good Samaritan laws and basic first aid guidelines. These new-found skills empowered and inspired our residents to take action when others are in need.


Casa Valentina would like to once again thank these inspiring figures, as well as the other community leaders, that have provided our residents with skills that will prove essential to their growth and development into adulthood and independent living. Every day, we continue to do our best to create an environment that encourages our youth to reach for their full potential and be a testament to the power of change.

*Statistics from the 


It's March, and while many are talking about MARCH MADNESS and which schools will be in the Final Four, it’s also National Social Work Month. It’s also important to note that one up and coming basketball star wouldn't be where he is today if it weren't for a Social Worker.

Meet Notre Dame Guard Demetrius Jackson. Jackson was 12 years old when he was placed into foster care. He was one of the lucky ones – it took “only” two years and “only” two foster homes before his Social Worker was able to place him in a “forever” home with his new family. Before he became the all-time leading scorer in St. Joseph County with 1,934 career points, Jackson was a sixth-grader with a father in jail, and a mother and siblings he left behind.

The White House officially recognized March as National Professional Social Work Month in 1984. Professional social workers assist individuals, groups, or communities to restore or enhance their capacity for social functioning, while creating societal conditions favorable to their goals. The practice of social work requires knowledge of human development and behavior, of social, economic and cultural institutions, and of the interaction of all these factors; it is for that reason that we want to highlight one of our own.

Meet Alex Zuccaro, a Program Coordinator at Casa Valentina in charge of seven young men. Alex entered the Social Work field in 2005, joining the Department of Labor as a Counselor with Job Corp. and later becoming a Guardian ad Litem and Youth Advocate in our state’s capitol. Alex describes his most rewarding experience as working with clients and still keeping up with them after they’ve moved. Since becoming a Social Worker, he has noticed changes for the better and sees the system as evolving, however he also sees the biggest challenge for these young men is a lack of community services and accessibility of those services for them to advance in their lives.

Alex has been with Casa Valentina since 2011 and in that time has helped the lives of over 15 young men, many of whom have experienced more than two foster homes, have been in foster care for more than two years and were not placed with a “forever” family. To Casa Valentina, Alex Zuccaro is a star. He may not be hitting three-pointers for a Final-Four team, but he knows that the work he does, as well as the work other Social Workers do, allow for former foster care youth like Demetrius Jackson, to succeed and win at life.

So while you’re completing your brackets at work, school, home, try and share this new tidbit. If it weren’t for a Social Worker helping a young boy in rural Indiana, March Madness might be a lot different this year, so thank a Social Worker for all that they do.

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