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Our History

jay_berlinAlternative Family Services originally started as a project of Huckleberry House, the San Francisco runaway shelter, in 1973. At the beginning of February that year I was hired to start a foster care program there because upon looking into the situations of many of their teenage clients, the folks at Huckleberry’s found there was often no viable non-abusive family for youth to return to. Originally called the Alternative Living Program, the project involved the development of foster homes and other “alternative” living situations for teen-aged clients.

At my hiring interview with the good folks at Huckleberry’s I expressed my interest in someday running a foster care program that could implement my ideas about how clients and families might be supported. Amazingly, my employers agreed that if I got the program up and running to the point of financial self-sufficiency, they would allow us to “spin-off” and become an independent corporate entity.

That effort took five years to achieve. On July 1, 1978 with kids, foster families and staff in tow, the now newly renamed Alternative Family Services opened its door for business. Initially, the program served only older teenagers, but gradually, over the years, the ages of our young clients ranged from 0 to 24 and in some cases beyond. Over the many years a host of other services were added.

AFS’ successful history, now spanning over four decades, would not have been possible at all without the selfless generosity of more people than I could possibly name or perhaps even remember. The list includes the original visionaries at Huckleberry House who realized the need, through dozens of volunteer board members serving with full devotion but no compensation, through innumerable staff members in a welter of different positions and perhaps thousands of foster parents, respite workers and volunteers. All of these folks not only helped kids directly, but they also left their mark in the ongoing development of our values and practices moving forward. There is no way I can possibly express my gratitude to this army of compassion.