Thomas Lee’s career has focused on transforming child welfare systems into child well-being systems. In his decades of experience working with foster youth, Thomas has catalyzed providers and public and private funders to better serve transition-age youth. Before joining First Place for Youth, he launched and grew the Los Angeles Chapter of Friends of the Children to become the fastest growing of 22 offices across the country, demonstrating at multiple regional sites how professional mentors can prevent child entry into the foster care system to help end multi-generational cycles of poverty and foster care. During his tenure, Friends LA offered an array of two-generation mentoring services for relatives caregivers, families noted to be at risk for entry into the foster care system, and Black boys in foster care.
Before Friends LA, Thomas led Opportunity Youth Collaborative (OYC), powered by the Alliance for Children’s Rights. During his tenure, the OYC grew to nearly 50 organizations and partnered with Los Angeles City and County to collectively remove educational and employment barriers to engineer better outcomes for transition-age foster youth. The Collaborative increased foster youth access to college financial aid, and helped create more youth-centered workforce development opportunities. Thomas also worked over ten years at Hillsides Youth Moving On, which pairs transitional and affordable housing with a comprehensive menu of life-skills training and housing resources for transition-age foster youth.
An educator at his core, Lee previously taught high school English and taught composition at Cal State University of Los Angeles. He’s a father of three, and he and his wife Noemi, a therapist, have dedicated their careers to creating conditions that protect youth and inspire them to reach their full potential.