For many of our community’s foster youth, the Temecula/Murrieta area is the place they call “home.” Even when their story begins in another city, county or state, today’s youth often consider Southwest Riverside County their best option and their biggest opportunity for building a successful future. Many foster kids reside in local foster or group homes, including up to 36 children placed with Rancho Damacitas Children & Family Services, located in Temecula Wine Country. When foster youth turn 18 and exit foster care, some choose to leave the area in hopes of reconnecting with extended family or simply to make a fresh start. However, in time, many face unforeseen obstacles and plans don’t work out the way they hoped. It is then that many return to their “home” community seeking solace where their hearts are comforted and they’ve established a sense of “family.”
Take “A.C.” for example. As a former foster youth in need of housing, he’s actively engaged in Rancho Damacitas’ transitional housing program for young adults, Project Independence. A hard-working young man, A.C. holds two part-time jobs, volunteers for a middle school dance program and is always on-the-go seeking his slice of the American dream. When the opportunity recently came for him to live with extended family in Florida, he “seized the day” with hopes of getting help in joining the military. Staff with Project Independence encouraged him to pursue this new option, drove him to LAX, and wished him. When things didn’t go as well as he expected, A.C. started missing his “home” and soon returned to Project Independence, where he was welcomed back with open arms.
Approximately 50% of former foster youth become homeless within their first two years of exiting the foster care system. Many of these young people, if given the chance, will seize opportunities to grow their lives in positive directions and will go on to become tomorrow’s leaders. Through its Project Independence housing program, Rancho Damacitas serves these ambitious young adults as they transition out of foster care. The program also provides assistance with employment-readiness, college enrollment, daily living skills, mentoring and other supportive services. There are approximately 5000 children in foster care in Riverside County, CA. Recognizing the needs of this vulnerable population, Rancho Damacitas is seeking the community’s support to expand Project Independence in order to serve even more young adults in the months and years to come. The non-profit is raising funds in preparation for building a new home where these inspiring young adults can have a safe, supportive environment and can continue to soar toward their dreams.
Join Rancho Damacitas for the much anticipated Champion’s Lunch on Friday, September 23rd, 2016, at South Coast Winery Resort & Spa from 12 to 1:30 PM. For more information on how to support our youth or to learn how to get involved, please contact Kristi Piatkowski at 951-302-2317, ext. 221, or visit www.4kidsfirst.org