Relative Voices

Destiny’s Story (excerpted from Youth Today article on Continuum of Care Reform)

“Destiny Adams was driving on Balboa Boulevard, on the way to visit her two younger sisters, when she got the call.

The courts had just ordered the sisters, Lisa, 13, and Nicole, 16 (names have been changed), to be removed from their father’s care. A social worker from the Department of Children and Family Services wanted to know if the girls could go to Destiny’s apartment or if they needed to find other placement.

I want them, Destiny said.

Just 22 herself and a single mother of three kids, she knew that bringing Lisa and Nicole into her small two-bedroom apartment in Stevenson Ranch north of the city would be a tight fit. Her only income is from child support — she’s in the midst of a divorce from her children’s father — and financial aid — she’s a full-time student at College of the Canyons. But as a former foster child herself, Destiny knew she would get a monthly stipend to care for each of her sisters.

What she didn’t know yet was that California’s ambitious Continuum of Care Reform (CCR), a statewide overhaul of the foster care system implemented in 2017, had one still-unresolved kink that would leave her without compensation for months. She would nearly lose her car, get threats from the bank that they were going to close her checking account and come close to getting evicted from her apartment on three separate occasions.”

Bob’s Story 

My name is Bob Ruble. I live in Orange County and I have been caring for my niece for the last 13 years. As I look back over the last 13 years, I can now see that there was a lot more that could have been done to make my niece’s placement into my home more successful. I love my niece and am proud how far she has come in life and I was glad I was able to step up and provide her a loving, stable home, but the lack of information and support I received made a difficult situation more difficult at times.

At the very beginning, I was given little information, and was forced to start trying to figure things out on my own. It was very difficult to do my best for my niece when I did not know what I was supposed to do or how to do it. I spent many, many hours on the phone trying to extract the information I needed. I also had a roller coaster time when it came to the funding I received to support my niece. Fortunately for me, I had the means to fully financially support my niece so the delay and lack of understanding about what I was supposed to be eligible for did not create a crisis. But, I cannot imagine how other relatives who do not have these means would survive the months of uncertainty. Watch his testimony before the the Select Committee on Foster Care below.


Tiffany’s Story 

My name is Tiffany Soto. I was 29 when I made a decision that changed my life forever. My nephew, Elijah, was in the hospital after my sister’s boyfriend repeatedly beat and abused him. He was 2 years old and in foster care. I was scared, and even though my career was just starting and I didn’t have the income to support a family I knew I had to provide a home for this traumatized boy.

I was told Elijah was not eligible for foster care benefits because Elijah lived in a home with both parents. I had to go to the welfare office three times to apply for CalWORKs, and didn’t get help from Elijah’s social worker.

I am providing a loving home for Elijah. But I can’t get all of the things he needs from the CalWORKs money. We can barely make rent and keep up with buying him clothes which he quickly outgrows, let alone pay for Little League or get him a bicycle.

California needs to support kids like Elijah and relatives like me who are just trying to keep our foster children happy, healthy and most importantly, loved.


Priscilla’s Story

Priscila Cortez-Ouer is a relative caregiver for her 5 nieces and nephews. Watch Priscila tell her amazing story in front of the Select Committee on Foster Care below.


Anna’s Story 

iStock_000016355432MediumMy name is Anna Vargas, and I am a single mother caring for my six year old daughter. My niece, Nicka, was placed in foster care as an infant and spent time in multiple homes. I couldn’t bear the inconsistencies of her early life, so I decided to give her a stable home. Before Nicka came to live with me, I worked nights at Denny’s and spent my days at community college.

Once Nicka came, I had to give up school because she needs constant attention and counseling every day. When she lived with a foster parent, she received more than $1,000 a month for her care. I receive less than $400 a month, which barely covers the cost of gas and food. I’d like to adopt Nicka, but the system won’t let me until I get an apartment with another bedroom, which I can’t afford right now. I’m really worried about our future. I would love to finish my education and get a good job so I can provide for my daughter and Nicka, but it seems like an out of reach dream.


Sharon’s Story 

My name is Sharon McBride, and I am the 57 year old relative caregiver to my four year old granddaughter Abbie, and her half-sister, Layla, 6. In March of 2012 their mother began using drugs, and I became concerned for the girls’ welfare. I called child protective services, and the girls were removed from their mother’s home. I realized as their grandmother, I could provide the most nurturing and comfortable home for the girls.

The girls came to me with a paper sack, literally. I ended up spending more than $2,000 to properly dress and take care of them. Layla is not my biological grandchild, so she immediately received a clothing allowance and state foster care benefits. Abbie, who is my biological grandchild, received no financial help for one year. In June 2013, things started to improve when Abbie’s CalWORKs was issued and we received a transportation reimbursement for the visits to their parents, but we still struggle to cover the basics: food, rent and clothing.

If I had adequate support, I wouldn’t have to worry about meeting their most basic needs and I could provide activities like gymnastics or ballet.


John’s Story 

John LundgrenI am a 56 year old retired musician and teacher raising two grandchildren, one of whom is autistic, with my wife who is 53. We also expect to take in the children’s brother, our grandson, who has also been diagnosed with autism. The children, aged 7, 6 and 3 were taken from their home and placed into three separate foster homes that were non-English-speaking. The oldest was moved more than four times in several weeks because of her behaviors, and when we finally got her, she was very traumatized. We were initially told that we would receive funding for the children’s care, so I took early retirement to help my wife with them.

Eventually, though, we were denied funding, so I had to look for new work. Communication from the system has been nonexistent, and while we are grateful to be able to care for our family, we need help and hope that their needs will be recognized.