Tears of joy welled up in her eyes with genuine love and appreciation as she recalled the impact Rancho Damacitas has had on her young life, describing it as “the first real home and the first real family” she’s ever known. Now aged 19 and a recent high school graduate, she continues to receive the organization’s support and guidance, building on the foundation it provided to her during her years in foster care. While her past may partly describe her, it does not define her. She is resilient, embracing the future with hope and an honest commitment to pursuing her dreams.
Over 30 years ago, Rancho Damacitas opened its doors to care for four girls suffering from severe abuse and neglect. Over time, the organization grew to include six homes, accommodating thirty-six children. As the organization continues to grow, so have the children. The need to create a second program to help youth entering adulthood has become necessary. Project Independence was recently launched and is now serving our communities’ former foster youth population throughout Riverside and neighboring counties.
In 2014, there were approximately 63,000 foster youth in California. Approximately 5000 foster children reside in Riverside County alone. Only 45% graduate from high school. 50% are unemployed and 33% receive public assistance. A daunting 50% become homeless during their first 2 years after leaving the foster care system. At 18, without proper guidance and support, many of today’s youth simply cannot bear the burden alone.
Rancho Damacitas is helping to change these dismal statistics. Anchored in family traditions through its one-of-a-kind residential campus in the heart of the Temecula Valley, current plans embrace the development of an umbrella of services. With generous support from the community, the non-profit is building capacity to provide college scholarships to hard-working students, a children’s enrichment fund for extra-curricular activities, a community resource center to keep youth connected, and a housing program, Project Independence, offering unique, affordable housing opportunities and specialized supportive services to former foster youth 18 years and older.
Our vision is to nurture, empower and develop self-sufficient, well-educated, healthy young adults who become thriving, contributing members of our community. We’re doing whatever it takes to help our youth become successful young adults. But we can’t do it alone. We need your help. If you’d like to join us in achieving our vision, we have many activities and opportunities to get involved. For information on ways you or your businesses can help our youth thrive, please contact us at 951-302-2317 or visit our website: www.4kidsfirst.org