La Jollan Jeanette Day is ‘Wonder Woman’ to foster youth

Jeanette Day, social worker and child advocacy attorney

For her longtime support and co-founding of the Just in Time for Foster Youth charity, La Jolla resident Jeanette Day has been named “Wonder Woman” for this year’s Walk the Talk Gala (the organization’s top honor). The gala will take place Saturday, March 23 at the Hyatt Regency La Jolla at Aventine.

The theme is “A Community of Heroes,” and the “Fantastic Four” to be honored alongside Day are Kevan Lyon, Kathy Roberts, Joanne Marks and Susanne Livingston.

Founded in 2003, Just in Time for Foster Youth provides support programs for those 18-year-olds transitioned out of foster care.

“Jeanette has always been an advocate for the rights and well-being of young people who haven’t had the benefit of a caring family,” said Just in Time executive director Don Wells. “Her sensibility is the basis for Just in Time’s mission and success.”

He added that as a social worker for 13 years and child advocacy attorney of 25 years, Day has “witnessed a tragic transition that most people didn’t even know existed — foster youth leaving the Juvenile Court system without essential family support.” And she did something about it.

With friends and associates, Day created Just in Time for Foster Youth.

Today, the organization hosts a variety of programs to benefit those recently out of foster care, including Financial Fitness (classes in money management); Changing Lanes (driver’s education, behind-the-wheel training and planning for the purchase of a car); My First Home (support to furnish a youth’s first residence with essentials such as dressers, tables, dishware and more).

But Day’s passion project is its Career Horizons program, for which she is a coach, that guides and empowers young women through a network of female professionals who help them build confidence and self-worth in career planning.

“Women from all different careers meet with these young women for weeks to introduce them to career options, help with resume writing and support them as they recognize their own strengths,” Day said. There is also a “brother program” for young men.

Day explained that she felt the need to help foster youth after seeing the difficulties they faced during her professional career as a child advocacy lawyer.

“I’d see these needs emerge as they were leaving foster care. They are essentially kicked to the street at 18,” she said. “These children were taken from their parents for a reason, so they don’t have the family support they need to enter adulthood. Imagine being 18 years old and facing the diverse challenges that come from becoming an adult and entering the overwhelming college or work world.

“I’ve seen the best and brightest fall apart because they face financial and emotional hardships they were not prepared for and do not have a parent to turn to for support.”

Over the last 16 years, she has seen the programs and services for foster youths evolve. “The landscape is better now than in 2003 and there are a lot of programs available now. But at the same time, the leaders of Just in Time have made the programs we offer better and better.”

The fundraising Walk the Talk Gala will offer the chance to meet some of these foster youths and hear their stories.

“A Community of Heroes,” gala is 5:30 p.m. Saturday, March 23 at Hyatt Regency La Jolla at Aventine, 3777 La Jolla Village Drive. Tickets start at $350.

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