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Embracing Foster Youth


For the past two years, the Parent Involvement & Community Outreach Department has received donations from Youth Enrichment Services, a nonprofit organization in San Bernardino dedicated to supporting children in need. 

care package suppliesThis year, when the organization provided PICO with many high end items, Director Jose Campos envisioned the donations benefiting a specific group: high school-aged foster youth. Mr. Campos recruited Audriana Santana, School Mental Health Therapist, to spearhead the project. Her background as a Community Outreach Intern made her the perfect candidate.

“We have a high population of foster youth students within the district,” shared Ms. Santana. “Our foster youth might feel a little bit distant compared to our general youth, so we want to bring them that feeling of warmth and happiness and being part of a family unit, especially during the holidays.”

After coordinating with high school counselors to identify needed items, Ms. Santana created care packages of clothing, shoes, school supplies, and hygiene products tailored for foster youth. Along with donations from Youth Enrichment Services, the care packages included items from other local partners, PICO staff, and Shoes That Fit. 

Two foster youth girls shop for clothesShoes That Fit is an organization in Claremont that provides new shoes to kids in need. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, measurements could not be taken in person, so a Google Form was created to gather the correct sizing information. Ofir Adams, Outreach Worker for PICO, was tasked with making sure the order was properly submitted so the shoes arrived on time.

On the day of distribution, foster youth high schoolers came to PICO during scheduled appointment windows to receive their care packages. After being checked in, students were handed a shoe box labeled with their name along with a drawstring backpack filled with hygiene products and school supplies. Next, students were invited to “shop” for multiple articles of clothing, including shirts, dresses, sweaters, jackets, and socks. The clothes were laid out to make it easy for students to recognize the different styles and sizes.

“For our foster youth, it’s very important that they see the products and feel engaged in the process,” stated Ms. Santana. “We want them to feel like this care package is unique to them.”

Ms. Santana helps foster youth pick out clothesTwenty JUSD students received the care packages. After weeks of coordinating with counselors and gathering materials, witnessing their excitement was a gratifying experience for Ms. Santana.

“I feel like the room was filled with joy,” she shared. “A foster parent was just telling me, ‘This is what they needed.’ There’s obviously other stuff going on in their lives, so to be able to give them this one moment of joy or excitement, where they’re able to be in control of something, that’s what’s beautiful about this.”

When asked what the Jurupa Valley community should know about foster youth, Ms. Adams offered the following call to action: “They’re here. They need support. Participate in events where it’s targeted for foster youth. Get them the support they need so they can be thriving students in our community.”