Bonus Babies

Jayne Amelia Larson

The BONUS BABIES podcast is the only one of its kind that features the compelling true-life hard-hitting stories of youth with a lived foster care experience and the people who care for them––all via the unique 360* lens of a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteer. Through raw first-hand accounts, BONUS BABIES reveals the daunting complexity of the foster care world while documenting the challenges, failures and successes of the system as well as the people and the agencies involved. The creator and host, Jayne Amelia Larson, is a CASA - a Court Appointed Special Advocate volunteer for youth in foster care. In the same way a CASA works, she explores all things in the foster care maze by talking to kids, parents, caregivers, attorneys, social workers, therapists, members of community and social programs...anybody and everybody who will speak to her to keep the conversation open and the information flowing about all things CASA––to give a forum to help people understand what it's like to have a lived foster care experience. Original music by Christina Apostolopoulos. Audio engineering and mixing by Adam "Yukon" Harr. Executive Producer is Jake Eberle

Play Trailer
Bonus Babies trailer
Mar 26 2021
2 mins
Bonus Babies trailerDorrie Woods: We Call Them Our Bonus Babies
Jayne Amelia introduces the BONUS BABIES podcast and talks with her first guest, foster parent and Peace4kids.org volunteer, Mrs. Dorrie Woods. After a rewarding career in education, Dorrie  retired to a life of family and volunteering with Center of Hope Youth Ministries, Miracle Workers, Carson Foster Parent Association, and Peace4Kids which offers a peaceful respite to children in the system and their families. She’s a Fun Ambassador at the Compton Adult School where one of the highlights was sparking and following through on a prom for intellectually delayed individuals who've never had one before, and she is a volunteer lead at Sister to Sister Purse Ministry providing purses jam packed with hand-written letters of encouragement and comfort items to homeless women.  Dorrie founded Travel For Me, creating personalized and fully escorted travel for adults with Downs Syndrome, Autism, and intellectual development disabilities to provide the experience of pleasure and joy of travel. In her role as a foster parent (to mostly special needs children and young adults) and assistant principal, she has supervised, escorted and loved thousands of kids. These experiences have given personal insight on how to foster special needs individuals who are often times marginalized, discredited, ignored and not valued as contributing members of society. Dorrie is a die-hard lover of chocolates, a good scrabble game, and great adventures. She and her husband have had the pleasure of raising 2 biological children, and fostering for 31 years with 26 Bonus Babies. They are currently fostering 2 stellar future leaders. faithfosterfamilies.orgPeace4kids.orgcenterofhopechurch.org/minsitriesdcfs.lacounty.gov/caregivers/adoptionheartgalleryla.orgkidsave.org
Apr 9 2021
35 mins
Jaci Cortez: The People That Hurt Me The Most Was My Own FamilyVenus Manuel: That Started Our Odyssey Through The Foster Care System Of 9 Different Homes In 3 Years
Jayne Amelia interviews former foster youth, Venus Manuel, a shining example of how nurture does not always triumph over nature.  From an early childhood rampant with sexual and physical abuse followed by a string of nine foster care homes, the development of another disillusioned dysfunctional youth seemed tragically imminent.  However, the strength, passion and individuality inherent in Venus provided her with the abilities to not only rise above her beginnings, but stand as a true pillar of society.  After graduating from Palmdale High School in 1996, Venus was emancipated from foster care and rapidly found herself in a state of destitution. Quickly responding to her circumstances, she forged an opportunity with the US Air Force and served an eight-year commitment to her country as a combat photographer. Those eight years were incredibly fruitful. Venus Manuel accomplished what most people would not be able to do with twice the time. The main bulk of her energy was directed towards bettering the lives of transitional foster care youth.  As a motivational speaker requested by organizations such as the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services, Child Welfare League of America and America Works, Venus has raised over half a million dollars specifically for disenfranchised youth, and continues to fight for the welfare of foster care youth.  At the same time, and carrying with her the platform “The Successful Transition of Foster Youth” at age 21, she began competing in and winning high profile beauty pageants.  Her titles include Miss High Desert 2000, Miss Central California 2001, Miss Los Angeles County 2002, Miss Black California 2003, and Miss Black United States 2004. Venus has also won the Miss America Interview and Community Service Award, and was chosen as one of Glamour magazine’s “Top Ten College Women in America.” Venus has an Associate’s degree in Liberal Arts from Antelope Valley College and a Bachelor’s degree in Human Services from California State University Dominguez Hills where she graduated in the top 10% of her class and was nominated by her peers as Outstanding Graduate.  She has a Master’s degree in Public Administration and Master’s degree in Counseling Education. She was also invited by the late director Penny Marshall and producer Kenadie Cobbin to be the opening act of their immensely popular Vagina Monologues at the Wilshire Ebell Theater.  Venus is married with two children.  After the birth of her son she took up pole dancing as a hobby that turned into a 12-year passion of movement exploration, performing, teaching (women, men, and LGBTQ) and competing all over the world in Vertical Theater.  She is also an Independent Living Coordinator with the Los Angeles County Probation Department continuing her work with foster youth and says, “I will continue to champion this cause by being a voice for those too afraid to speak and for those who are not being heard.”Venus Manuel - Pole Theatre USA 2017 Semi-Pro Pole Drama Championhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EbXOn9c9s54National Juvenile Justice Networkhttp://www.njjn.org/our-work/juvenile-justice-reform-advances-california?phpMyAdmin=14730ab3483c51c94ca868bccffa06efNational Center Youth Lawhttps://youthlaw.org/publication/legislative-push-juvenile-justice-reform-california/CA Division of Juvenile Justicehttps://www.cdcr.ca.gov/juvenile-justice/
Apr 23 2021
1 hr 2 mins
Lori Nelson: Even Though It Took A Toll, You See I'm Not Done
Jayne Amelia talks with Lori Nelson, former social worker working in the foster care system and now with the LA County Probation Department. "Lori was born a crusader with a heart for lost pets, the kid bullies made fun of and the person to run to and run away with when things were scary and unsafe. Lori’s childhood experiences led her to work in the helping profession in various human services organizations bringing value to clients fostering lasting and positive relationships. Lori graduated from the University of Southern California with a degree in Sociology and also a Master's degree in Counseling and Education from California State University Dominguez Hills. She then worked as a Domestic Violence Specialist at a domestic violence shelter advocating for and encouraging women to become survivors from abusive relationships.  Lori went on to work as a social worker for a foster family agency in group homes for girls and then as a CSW with the Department of Children and Family Services where she first worked with a Permanent Placement caseload with children from birth to age 18, and then with Transitional Age Youth (TAY).  DCFS is where Lori met again and was assigned to work with Venus Manual, a bright, gifted teenage girl who Lori found to be genuine and honest with determination and perseverance rarely seen in some one so young.  Lori left DCFS but continued to work in human service management at El Nido Family Centers for pregnant and parenting teens and Penny Lane Centers for the Wraparound Program.  She later returned to Los Angeles County to work as a Program Analyst for the Los Angeles County Probation Department for PPQA, Permanency Placement and Quality Assurance; again, working with Transitional Age Youth. Venus was working as a Probation Officer with TAY when their paths crossed again at an event honoring TAY called Success Is Our Future, not as client and social worker, but as women, as friends, with a life-long special and unbreakable bond.  Lori says Venus is 'her baby' and Venus calls Lori 'Mama Lori'.
Apr 29 2021
46 mins
Venus Manuel and Lori Nelson: They Saved Each OtherLaTanya Hill: You Can Fire Me All You Want But I'm Still Going To Be HereJuan Valles: When I Serve These Children, I Can See The Face Of God In ThemVaughn Laws: I Finally Reached The Head Of The Snake And The Head Of The Snake Is Telling Me You Called Too LateToni Cunningham: For Me It's About Not Failing, I Refuse To Let Myself To Be Anything Less ThanJaronna Yates: I Know My Mommy Loved Me, I Always Knew ThatAshleigh Nichols: You're Strong, Crazy Strong.Wende Julien: The Opportunity To Be In Their Lives Is A Blessing For MeDiane Martell: You're Going To Be OkayMegan Green: But Of Course As A Kid, When You Don't Know The Story You Make Up Stories
Jayne Amelia talks with the gracious and always growing, Megan Green, Founder/CEO of Motivate Vibe Grow and Crownworkshops all over the world. "Service isn’t one act of kindness," she says. "It has been a lifestyle for me.  I have been a leader and advocate for marginalized groups and people of color throughout my whole career. I have dedicated my life to serving others since my college days advocating for people suffering from homelessness in Philadelphia to now volunteering my hair care and styling services to the Skid Row homeless population in LA via My Friends House Foundation. In 2012, after experiencing a life changing mission trip to Chicago, I then led a service break trip to San Salvador, El Salvador with Project FIAT advocating for women, men and children via faith based missions with Villanova University. I have a Bachelor's degree in Psychology from Villanova University and a Master's in Communication Management from the University of Southern California.  With my unique background working in the aerospace industry for seven years, facilitating dialogue around race and difference, designing corporate training, managing scholarship programs and becoming a hairstylist as a child to sustain myself,  I am now equipped to marry my creative and corporate world via a lifestyle brand, MVG Naturals and the newly launched Crownworkshop. I started making products as a child and in 2013 developed an avocado based product business that I began building in 2016. I have learned a lot as an entrepreneur and now I want to make more of an impact through a social enterprise. As a stylist, I’ve always focused on equipping my clients with knowledge and tools to ensure that they themselves were self-sustainable and not dependent on her services to feel confident. I also learned that this work is critical for young girls to flourish and thrive. Therefore, I am now ready to take my knowledge, work ethic, experiences, tools and resources global to make an impact."MVG on FacebookIG@motivatevibegrowIG@crownworkshoplinktr.ee/mvgnaturalsUSC feature on Megan Green
Jul 9 2021
42 mins
Sid Gardner: You Have To Walk The Walk If You're Going To Talk The Talk
Jayne Amelia talks with Sid Gardner who co-parented four biological, step, and adoptive children during the past 50 years. Mr. Gardner is a Southern California native and serves as President of Children and Family Futures which he co-founded with his wife, Dr. Nancy Young. He served as Director of the Center for Collaboration for Children at California State University, Fullerton from 1991-2001. He is the author of Beyond Collaboration to Results, published by Arizona State University, which assesses the recent history of community collaboratives in the context of the growing move toward results-based accountability. His four-stage model of the developmental life cycle of collaboratives has been used extensively throughout the nation, along with a self-assessment instrument for collaboratives and a Collaborative Values Inventory designed to assess the degree of consensus on underlying values within a collaborative. Mr. Gardner´s book, Cities, Counties, Kids, and Families: the Essential Role of Local Government (2005), describes a model for developing strategic policy for children and family policy in local governments. Mr. Gardner has served as a staff member of the White House Domestic Council, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, Director of the California Tomorrow Youth at Risk Project, Director of the Hartford Private Industry Council, and an elected member of the City Council in Hartford, Connecticut from 1977 to 1981. He graduated from Occidental College and was awarded a Master´s degree in Public Affairs from Princeton University in 1965 and a Master´s degree in Religious Studies from Hartford Seminary in 1986; and has taught courses at seven universities. Mr. Gardner is a Vietnam veteran, and lives with his wife, Nancy Young, and two of their four children helping to raise their grandchildren. He is also the author of eight novels.Children and Family Futures
Jul 17 2021
50 mins
Tamar Sebesta: You're Not Alone And You Can Do It.Teena Festa: I've Always Loved So Genuinely, So CompletelyAnita: It Was An Entire Family Raising This ChildPeter Samuelson: It's a Team Sport, I'm a Team Leader