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#PlayItForward Spotlight on Alliance of Moms with Kelly McKee Zajfen

We are thrilled to introduce you to our September #PlayItForward Partner, Alliance of Moms. Alliance of Moms is a community of philanthropists who support pregnant and parenting teens in LA’s foster care system so that they can build a positive future for themselves and their children. Together as a membership community of #momsformoms, the Alliance of Moms supports the work of creating greater access to parenting, family, and wellness education, healthcare, housing, and stability for young moms. We chatted with AOM Co-Founder and amazing mama, Kelly McKee Zafjen, to learn more about the incredible work this organization does. 

Q: Alliance of Moms supports pregnant and parenting teens in LA’s foster care system so that they can build a positive future for themselves and their children. Can you tell us about the educational programs/opportunities you offer parents and families? How has COVID-19 impacted the work that you do?

Kelly: Yes, we are a community of moms dedicated to supporting teen-parents in LA’s foster care system. We support the Alliance for Children’s Rights and its Healthy Teen Families program by offering workshops on parenting education, early brain development, health and wellness while also volunteering our time and energy to getting this information and other critical resources to young families who need it.

Before the pandemic, our programs were live, interactive events where we volunteered our time to provide childcare support and hosted expert-led workshops to inform and empower young parents. Now, we are working to ensure that these resources can be accessed through virtual platforms.

In addition to these educational offerings, we donate personally and fundraise in support of the Alliance’s programs to provide direct legal and social services, access to urgently needed supplies, and systemic solutions and reforms.

Q: We loved learning that Alliance of Moms was born out of your Mommy Group. Tell us more about the origin of AOM.
Kelly: The Alliance of Moms was founded in 2014 by five friends. For some of us, we were having our first child (for me, two!) and for others, their second or third. There were profound changes for all of us as we experienced motherhood together. As moms, we connected on all of the joys and challenges of parenting. For me, I lost my own mother years before my children were born and having this community of women all going through the same challenges and journey was a way that I could manage and understand motherhood and all that came with this blessing. They really helped me through some of my toughest parenting moments! It was then when we became determined to share the bond we felt with each other with young moms in the foster care system in addition to the educational resources we were able to access when seeking out even the smallest questions that would come up everyday. I know personally I needed resources and help. I know we all wanted to make sure these girls could access help when they wanted to.  

50 percent of young women in foster care are pregnant before the age of 19, with a high percentage of their own children entering foster care. We recognized that we had an opportunity to harness our collective resources, insight and compassion to help.

Since then, we have grown into a network of moms aiming to build a supportive community so that foster youth and their children have the resources they deserve to thrive.

Q: You have built a unique community of “moms for moms”. What inspired you to structure Alliance of Moms as a member-based organization and how do members contribute to your community?

Kelly: We wanted to be intentional about creating a true community, and strong supportive system of moms for moms. And that’s why we ask people to make a commitment by joining this group and actively participate with contributions of their time, expertise and philanthropy.

Membership is at monthly and annual donation levels, which sustains this ongoing work; because we know that it takes a steady and reliable source of support in order to be effective.

Contributions from our members fuel what it takes to break down barriers to housing, jobs, benefits assistance, education, and healthcare—all exacerbated by racial disparity and inequity, during a time when the pandemic is intensifying the hardships vulnerable families face on a regular basis.

Q: Though each family’s experience is unique, the pandemic has been universally challenging for parents. When we’re balancing multiple roles and countless responsibilities, many of us struggle to dedicate time and energy to philanthropic efforts. What advice would you give to other parents who are eager to give back, but don’t know where to begin?

Kelly: This pandemic has really shed light on the disparities within our world today. This reality coupled with so many other inequities facing our communities calls us to action. While we are all motivated, as moms we all still have a lot on our own plates. Take a moment to pause and assess what you can reasonably take on and start somewhere. Every act of compassion counts and makes an impact!

Q: Can you share a favorite moment or experience with a young mother in foster care that you met through your work with Alliance of Moms?

Kelly: I have had such incredible moments and experiences through the work of Alliance of Moms. One of my favorite experiences is when we are all are gathered together cooking and eating a meal at Raising Foodies and watching the girls learn healthy cooking skills and recipes. After we cook the meal we all sit down together at the table and taste their creations and all talk about the craziness of our days and raising our littles. It’s a small intimate setting so we are really able to connect to one another. We set up the table in a beautiful way and make it feel really special. It’s a really special time to all be able sit together and tell our stories about motherhood. It feels that we are instantly connected by that love. Those evenings always leaves me with an incredible feeling of support. Cooking and gathering around a beautiful table reminds me of family and community. It’s sometimes the girls first sit down dinner they have ever had and the joy when they come in and see the settings, well, it’s a magical moment that’s left a forever print on my heart.

Q: What can someone do to support Alliance of Moms?

Kelly: Join us! Become a member.

Members receive regular updates on how they can help as well as opportunities to bond with each other. They share their platforms to bring greater awareness to the needs of families impacted by foster care and make it possible for us to create hope and opportunity. And as we start to launch our online platforms there are opportunities within that to help support as well!

P.S. Kelly, you are a craft queen! We love the way you incorporate natural and upcycled materials into the art that you do with your children. What's a recent project you have loved creating with George and Lily?

Oh thank you! I have so much fun with the kids and our art projects. It’s so important for them, especially during these times, to step away from the computer and use their creativity and hands. We just took a little road trip to Northern California and we decided to make animals out of egg cartons! We made little backgrounds for them and painted. We only made animals we had seen on our trip so it was really fun to try and create out of what we had at home. Now they are hanging in our house and we are reminded of how fun our trip was! 

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