Staff in Action: Patty Cala
Patty Cala, MSW is one of the amazing staff members here at AFS. Patty serves as the Director of Transition Age Youth Services for AFS’s Marin ILP/THP+ program.
Get To Know Patty
What are your main responsibilities at AFS?
I am the Director of TAY services. I run the Independent Living Program, and two transitional housing programs.
What led you to work in this field?
I started my career working in community mental health. After several years, I needed a break. After taking a few months off from social work, I began an internship working with troubled teens. I was hooked, teenagers rock!
Why did you choose to work at AFS?
When an opening came up to work as an Independent Living Skills coordinator in August 1993, I interviewed and got the job, yay!!! In my interview, I knew AFS was the right fit for me. I have never regretted my choice. AFS has been a wonderful place to work!
What are the three best things about your job?
Teens, teens, teens. Okay, also the people I work with and watching the clients grow and change over the years. I still have youth contact me who I worked with over 20 years ago. They call to tell me about marriages, babies and new jobs, I love it!
What are the three toughest things about your job? I What are three common misconceptions about foster care you would like to address
Its’ tough to see youth struggle. They struggle emotionally and financially. It’s hard to find affordable housing in the Bay Area. I hate that some have to move from the community they are connected to because they can’t afford to live here. The most common misconception I hear about my clients is that they are hoodlums. Often when people hear foster teens, they think juvenile delinquent. I have spent my entire career at AFS educating the community that these are regular young people who are incredibly resilient, and just need some extra love.
Tell us about one impactful moment you’ve had since working at AFS
We have had incredible success with getting youth into college. I have had young people attend Dominican College, UCLA, UC Berkeley, UCSF, St Mary’s and several State Colleges.
What is an interesting fact about you that others wouldn’t expect?
I love Halloween, and own my own coffin to scare the trick or treaters
Please tell us about a particularly memorable success story!
I had a young woman who went through our program. She always stayed in touch, letting me know of her ups and downs. She worked as a live-in caretaker because she didn’t have a place to live. After a few years of working, she called to ask me how to buy a house. I helped, and she was able to not only buy a house to live in, she purchased a rental property as well!
What’s one piece of advice you would provide to someone just starting out in a similar role?
This work is incredibly rewarding, but hard, surround yourself with supportive people