About Alternative Family Services

Since 1978, AFS has been serving the diverse and varied needs of thousands of children, youth, and families. Currently, AFS annually cares for approximately 1,500 youth through the following services accredited by COA: foster care, mental health, adoption, transition age youth, professional training, emergency shelter and juvenile justice youth.

AFS staff, board members, resource parents, corporate/community partners, and financial supporters make up our compassionate network who work together to help youth in care reclaim their sense of possibilities within safe, stable, and caring environments. AFS employs approximately 200 staff members from more than 12 countries, with education ranging from high school graduates to PhDs who provide a wide range of services in English and Spanish.

AFS’ successful history, now spanning almost half a century, would not have been possible without the selfless generosity of the original visionaries at Huckleberry House (San Francisco), the dozens of volunteer board members, innumerable staff members, 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.

History of Alternative Family Services

Marsha 2023


AFS welcomes new CEO, Marsha Lewis-Akyeem. Marsha comes with over 20 years of leadership experience with all four child and youth-related public systems: Child Welfare, Children’s Specialty Mental Health Services, Juvenile Probation, and Education.

Jay Circle Headshot


AFS originally started in 1973 as a project within Huckleberry House, the San Francisco runaway shelter. Jay Berlin was hired to start and manage the Alternative Living Program (ALP), a Huckleberry foster care program that created "alternative" living situations for teenage clients. Jay had a vision of expanding ALP into a program that would support the whole family. With Huckleberry's blessing, on July 1, 1978, with kids, foster families, and staff in tow, the now newly renamed Alternative Family Services opened its door for business.

With almost five decades at the helm, Jay Berlin retires from his role of CEO. In collaboration with Senior Leadership and the Board of Directors, Jay will assist in the CEO transition to emphasize continuity, stability, and commitment to AFS values.

AFS Timeline - PDF click here