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Former Pivotal CEO Elise Cutini and former Pivotal Coach Delrisha White
Former Pivotal CEO Elise Cutini and former Pivotal Coach Delrisha White

We've always focused on foster youth.  

Pivotal’s roots date all the way back to 1989 when a group of community members formed Silicon Valley Children’s Fund (our old name) and teamed up with the County of Santa Clara to build a children’s shelter. The facility, on Union Avenue in San Jose, ran for 13 years until it was sold in 2012.  Silicon Valley Children’s Fund reinvested the proceeds from the sale and continued to work with public and private organizations to address the unfulfilled educational needs of foster youth.


It’s hard to boil down our 30-year history, especially when we’re proud of every minute. But if you’re curious, here’s how we evolved to become Pivotal.


Back then, we were called Silicon Valley Children’s Fund. We started a college scholarship program to help more foster youth earn a college degree. Trouble was, we had more money than scholarship applicants. 50% of foster youth were dropping out of high school and only a few were headed to college. Obviously, a scholarship program wasn’t enough. We needed to increase the high school graduation rate! 


We partnered with the Department of Family and Children’s Services and County Office of Education and created a stellar academic support program for 9th-12th graders. We brought on graduate interns in social work as high school coaches, and also gave them a valuable forum for gaining professional experience. Success! Foster youth in our program graduated high school at a rate 25 percentage points higher than their foster youth peers! With more high school graduates - and scholarships to give out - it was time to get them to college. 


Once our foster youth got into college, the pressures of managing school and life in foster care were a lot to handle. A lot of them asked, "Could we have coaches like the ones we had in high school?" You bet! So, we created a college-level academic support program and partnered with local community colleges to offer it to foster youth who were enrolled on their campuses. With the program in place, 89% of our students stayed in school (up from 61%). A 10-year pathway of academic support, from freshman year in high school to college graduation was born! 


Jobs. Everyone needs one. Soon our college foster youth scholars were asking us,  "What types of jobs are out there for my major? How do I search for a job? What's a resume?" And, the big one: "I need a job while I'm in school so I can make ends meet!" They asked us to add employment and career support services to our services, and of course, we started to consider our options. 


We enlist the help of TeenForce, a  Silicon Valley non-profit with a solid reputation for finding foster youth jobs. They were already working with more than 100 local employers to provide summer internships for foster youth! In 2017, we merged with TeenForce, put more heads together, and expanded our list of services offered, so we could achieve a wider impact in the lives of foster youth.  


Silicon Valley Children's Fund and TeenForce rebrand to Pivotal, a name chosen by our Youth Advisory Board to reflect our impact on the lives of foster youth. 


Building our capacity and increasing our funding partnerships are critical to our goals of reaching more foster youth in Silicon Valley. In 2020, we made key hires to our already amazing staff and invested in our volunteer program by offering more corporate engagement opportunities too. And, as if that wasn't enough, we also launched a Remote Coaching Program to serve scholars who attend college outside our area! 


In 2022, we launched our strategic plan for the next 3 years, with the goal of building our capacity to help even more young people from foster care. The Pivotal on the Move initiative is a plan for us to (1) continue to serve students even if they move out of county; (2) expand our services into middle school; and (3) deepen our advocacy and advance legislation focused on removing the barriers that create inequity.  Learn more here at

What does it take to earn a Pivotal college scholarship?