Press Release

Press Release: First Place for Youth Announces New Chief Executive Officer Thomas G. Lee

First Place for Youth Announces New Chief Executive Officer Thomas G. Lee

For Release September 20, 2021 – Oakland, CA – The Board of Directors of First Place for Youth is delighted to announce the selection of Thomas G. Lee as Chief Executive Officer.

“With Thomas, we have a leader who not only understands the barriers to success faced by foster youth as they transition to their adult lives, but someone who has spent his career removing those barriers and building the programs, systems and coalitions that will better their lives” said First Place for Youth Board Chair Nancy Heinen.  “His deep knowledge, wide network and strong leadership are ideally suited to lead First Place for Youth in its ambitious national growth plan to help shape programs and policies to help the 23,000 foster youth who age out of care each year nationwide when they turn 18.”

In his decades of experience working with older foster youth, Thomas has led and convened a number of diverse coalitions, and catalyzed public and private funders to better serve transition-age youth.

“I am thrilled and excited by the opportunity to serve and add to the rich history and impact for which First Place for Youth has earned well-deserved praise across our state and around the country,” he said. “I look forward to raising awareness and fighting for systemic change for transition-age foster youth here in California and across the country.”

Thomas says his career has focused on transforming child welfare systems into child well-being systems. Before joining First Place for Youth, he launched and grew the Los Angeles Chapter of Friends of the Children. Under his leadership, the chapter became the fastest growing of 22 offices across the country, demonstrating at multiple regional sites how professional mentors can prevent entry into the foster care system to help end multi-generational cycles of poverty and foster care. During his tenure, Friends LA added services for relatives caring for the children of parenting foster youth, and for families noted to be at risk of entry into the foster care system.

Before Friends LA, Thomas led Opportunity Youth Collaborative, which grew to nearly 50 organizations partnering with Los Angeles City and County to collectively remove educational and employment barriers and 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’s career has placed him in the orbit of First Place for many years.  In 2012, during his 10-year tenure at Hillsides Youth Moving On, he partnered with First Place for Youth to create affordable, permanent housing that continues to this day. Hillsides Youth Moving On pairs transitional and affordable housing with a comprehensive menu of life-skills training 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.

ABOUT FIRST PLACE FOR YOUTH: Founded in 1998, First Place for Youth envisions a world in which involvement in the foster care system does not limit young people’s opportunity to thrive. Its mission is to support foster youth to build the comprehensive skills needed to make a successful transition to self-sufficiency and responsible adulthood. First Place provides evidence-based, results-driven direct services to more than 1,500 foster youth each year in six California counties—Alameda, Contra Costa, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Santa Clara, and Solano—and through its My First Place™ Network with partner providers in Boston, New York City, Cincinnati, and Mississippi. For more information, visit, follow us on Twitter @FPFY and LinkedIn, or connect on Facebook.


Grace Reddy
Chief Development Officer


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