Meet Board Director Marla Morgan

Marla Foster Morgan M.P.A. understands firsthand the unique challenges that Transition Age Foster Youth face.

Her personal experience in the foster care system left her emotionally abandoned, abused, and broken. She learned to persevere and overcome challenges as every day she suffered pain without a voice. Many nights she would stay awake wishing to see her mother and often imagined what her father looked and acted like.

Throughout elementary, Marla often experienced bullying, and loneliness, she felt that she did not fit in. Flashes of traumatic events were haunting reminders of the silenced pain she learned to stuff down and ignore.

Often experiencing cycles of dysfunction while visiting her mother throughout the years, she did not speak up about her experiences for fear of being ostracized even more.

When Things Started to Change for Marla

Marla felt like a failure at an early age that is, until one day. She lagged all morning to not attend school along with her cousins. She was successful until her uncle came home and said, “No you’re going to school!” 

He walked her to the classroom and her fifth-grade teacher looked relieved to finally see a parent for an often distracted and frequently late to school child. The next words her teacher spoke helped change the course of her life he said, “she is a very bright girl.”

The impact of those words met hope when Marla saw a shirt with the name “Howard University” on it. She was known by family members as a “bookworm” and “nerd” as she was an avid reader. Her favorite trips were to the library. There, she learned Howard University was a historically Black College (HBCU) founded by people who looked like her. From there she read about many positive contributors to society who walked those same halls.

Later, the Independent Living Program (ILP) allowed foster youth with a decent GPA to attend an east coast college tour. This experience cemented her belief in education. She somehow knew education would allow her avenue to overcome the odds stacked against her. She then attended a four-year university right after high school.

How Marla’s Lived Experience Benefits Foster Youth Today

Marla Morgan has grown into an advocate for Transition Age Foster Youth, having overcome many of the same pitfalls, barriers, and challenges that college aged youth experience after foster care.

Transition Age Foster Youth face unique challenges into adulthood; emotional, physical, and for some mental traumas threaten the clear thinking necessary for positive decision making. For Marla, this was a reality.

Many transition-age foster youth “couch surf” Marla’s life was no different. To finish school, she moved on campus during fall, winter, and spring and couch surfed at a relative’s home during the summers. She was often afraid to voice her needs and frequently went without necessities.

Experiencing Homelessness, Poverty, and Hunger

Unaware of how to connect with university life Marla experienced homelessness, dropped out, became destitute, and experienced a plethora of hungry and sleepless nights.

Throughout this time, she worked for fortune five hundred companies but lacked the necessary skills to balance work and school. Inability to effectively manage finances led to numerous challenges and hardships.

As a result, of these tumultuous transitional years, Marla has a heart to reach foster youth at critical ages thrust into adulthood with so much baggage they are unsure as to which next steps to take to have a consistent place to lay their head. Much less, have the emotional, mental, and physical capacity required to succeed in school and life.

Rising Above to Succeed and Help Others

Eventually, she graduated from college with a Bachelor of Science in Public Administration. Marla realized her strengths in Organizational Leadership, Customer Service, and Strategic Partnerships among many others while working for a well-known private company and was quickly promoted within the company. Managing over thirty million in revenue monthly with various locations Marla has a knack to understand the needs of her employees, clients, and stakeholders.

The need for a change became clearer when Marla felt she was so focused on the goals of the company when her heart was and is to help people. A pivotal moment caused Marla to transition into a service mindset helping those who are less fortunate, counseling, and providing support to other at-risk youth.

She found her voice.

Higher education and research helped her to better assist underserved, at-risk, and transition-age foster youth. She graduated with a Master of Public Administration with a concentration in Public Private Partnerships, is married with two beautiful daughters, and now fulfills her life’s purpose.

Read more from Azusa Pacific University about the impact Marla is making in the foster care world.

She helps to create innovative, collaborative change among at-risk, transitional-age foster youth, and single parents, with resources, consultations, and childcare to reach their educational and career goals. She teaches parents how to redirect, nurture, and support their children’s development.

Marla Morgan’s Role at Finally Family Homes

Marla Morgan standing next to Christina Dronen and Eugenie Ooi at the Aug Finally Family Homes board meeting

Marla Morgan serves in recruitment and development for our board at Finally Family Homes. This role helps amplify her voice of experience on the board.

But Marla does so much more. During the 2022 youth homelessness count, she took to the streets of Santa Clarita, joining us in counting the homeless youth in our community. Marla is a great advocate, sharing about the struggles our youth face and the work we do in the community.