For Stephan Carter-Mason, a First Place young person from Contra Costa County, family means everything. At six-years-old, he, his younger sister, and older brother were placed into different foster homes when his mother was no longer fit to care for them. Being separated from his mother was hard on Stephan and not having his brother with him made it worse. With his father long gone, Stephan had come to look up to his brother and rely on him as a positive male influence. This emotional trauma was deepened later when, during his high school years, his brother died tragically in a car accident.

Stephan’s time in foster care was filled with constant transition and he never had enough time to feel secure and steady in one place before having to move to the next. By the time he turned 18, he’d attended 14 different schools and lived in four different foster homes. The loss of his brother and the instability of his childhood led him to rebel as a teenager. In high school, he ran with the wrong crowd of friends and occasionally stole food from grocery stores.

It was during this time that Stephan also started to fear what his life after foster care would be like. “I was afraid to grow up because I was worried about how I’d pay bills and about where I would live,” he remembers. “I was definitely willing to do what I had to in order to survive but there was no one there for guidance on how to do it the right way or to help me figure out the first step.” That’s when Stephan learned of First Place from a contact at ILSP. After he emancipated, First Place helped Stephan get into his own.