June 6, 2024

Thank You JBAY Executive Director Amy Lemley

Thank You JBAY Executive Director Amy Lemley

There is big news at John Burton Advocates for Youth (JBAY): Amy Lemley is leaving, after 18 years with the organization.

Amy started at JBAY in 2006, after serving as the co-founder and Executive Director of First Place for Youth. She had recently given birth to her daughter Violet and was not even looking for a job, when she happened to meet John Burton. “I knew John was the key to making a program like First Place available statewide. I took a chance and am glad I did; it’s been a great 18 years.”

For the first 10 years of her tenure, Amy was the Policy Director, developing legislative fixes for the many challenges facing California’s foster youth. The first of these was Senate Bill 1576, authored by Senator Kevin Murray, which expanded transitional housing for former foster youth statewide. Today, California funds 75 transitional housing programs that collectively serve 1,400 former foster youth annually. 

Under Amy’s leadership, JBAY has successfully advocated for 54 major reforms, including extending foster care to age 21, increasing access to financial aid, expanding support for parenting youth and creating a specialized tax credit for foster youth, the nation’s first. 

When JBAY changed from being fiscally sponsored to an independent nonprofit in 2016, Amy stepped up to serve as its first official Executive Director. This meant expanding her purview beyond policy and building out an entire organizational infrastructure, including finance, human resources, fundraising and administration. These less public achievements are something in which Amy takes pride, “Today, JBAY is a strong, stable organization that will be around as long as necessary to achieve our mission of improving the lives of youth who have been in foster care or homeless.” 

Amy’s impact on JBAY and the field is significant, according to Yali Lincroft of the Walter S. Johnson Foundation, a long-time philanthropic supporter of JBAY. 

“When I think of California’s policy reforms for older foster youth in the past decades, such as AB12 extension of care, higher education access, foster youth tax credit, and addressing housing needs, I credit much of these victories to Amy’s leadership, innovation, and tenacity,” says Yali Lincroft, Program Director for the Walter S Johnson Foundation. 

“Amy is a pragmatic children’s advocate who understands the importance of the long game.  Her understanding of the importance of real-time data collection and research has been tremendously influential in creating public/private partnerships yielding lasting results.”

Amy appreciates the praise, but is quick to note that JBAY’s success is due to a large, committed network of people and organizations, “Everything JBAY has accomplished has been due to our great team: expert staff, amazing youth advocates, active board members, tremendous community partners and of course, committed philanthropic supporters. We have a lot to be proud of all that we have accomplished together.”

Amy’s last day at JBAY will be October 1st and until then she will be working with board and staff members to identify JBAY’s next leader. “It is a great organization, where a person can make a true difference in the lives of young people.”

As for Amy, she is looking forward to some time off, followed by exploring her next professional step. “I am looking forward to stepping back and thinking through what my next chapter entails. There is certainly no shortage of work to be done.”

According to Director of Housing and Economic Mobility Simone Tureck Lee, she has no doubt it will be a success “Amy’s capacity to push boundaries knows no bounds. Everything she puts her hands on multiplies in impact. Her time at JBAY is a testament to this; her fearlessness, brilliant creativity, relentless drive, and unwavering commitment to the organization’s mission have undeniably elevated the prospects of youth coming from foster care or homelessness in our state. While Amy’s departure leaves a significant void at JBAY, we know her work is not done and eagerly anticipate the many achievements ahead.”