Orangewood Foundation seeks foster parents for Youth Connected program
The Davis family of Fountain Valley likes helping those in need.
Rachael Davis has been pregnant seven times — three times carrying her own children, and four times as a surrogate mother.
Each of the families she worked with couldn’t have babies on their own, and she was happy to provide assistance. On the way home from the seventh pregnancy, though, she decided it was time for a talk with her husband, Justin.
“I knew it was done,” she said. “I was done being pregnant at that point, but I wasn’t done giving. How do I keep giving? We talked about the option [of foster care] before, and I was like, ‘I’m ready.’”
The Davises were the first family to sign on for Orangewood Foundation’s Youth Connected foster care program, in partnership with the Samueli Academy. The foundation is seeking dozens more families to come forward as resource/foster parents to support children in need.
The Davis’ 16-year-old foster daughter, whose name and photos are not used in this story because she is a minor, first came to them for respite (temporary) care in July. But when they found out she’d be unable to go back to her foster home, Justin and Rachael offered to take her as an emergency placement.
Then, their social worker found the Youth Connected program, which offers dormitories and academic support to foster children during the week on the Samueli Academy charter school campus in Santa Ana. The Davises decided to switch their foster license from the county to Orangewood, and the 16-year-old moved into the dorms in October.
Rachel and Justin bring their foster daughter home on the weekends, where she meshes well with their daughters Taylor and Jordan, who are 14 and 13 respectively, and their son Elijah, 11.
“We fell in love with her,” Rachael Davis said. “She’s an amazing kid. She’s incredible ... Our house is not a quiet house by any means. If you can keep up with us, it’s pretty impressive.”
Both parents work Monday through Friday — Justin teaches at Calvary Chapel High School and Rachael works at a credit union — so they are able to maximize time with their foster daughter.
“It’s a different feel,” Justin Davis said. “You end up dropping her off and it almost feels like we don’t have her around very much. But that being said, we also have the opportunity to [see her during the week]. We just tell [Orangewood], ‘OK, we want to take her out on Wednesday night’ or something, and we can set something up. And they have parties.
“They work with us a lot, if we need something or they need something. It’s been a pretty pleasurable experience working with them.”
Orangewood Foundation chief program officer Dr. Shauntina Sorrells, who lives in Costa Mesa, hopes for more stories like the Davises. The Youth Connected program is looking for foster parents from around Orange County, Sorrells said, and currently has four students placed and six foster families involved with the program.
The dorms on the Samueli Academy campus, which have rolled out slowly due to the coronavirus pandemic, can fit up to 48 foster youths in grades seven through 12.
“We had a couple of interior designers come in and outfit the spaces,” Sorrells said. “They’re beautiful spaces. My goal is whenever anyone walks in, they say, ‘I want to live here.’ That is what we have, and that’s what I want for our youth. Our youth deserve to have a beautiful home where they can live and thrive.”
Ideally, Sorrells said there would be up to 100 foster homes in place so that the kids can get the right match.
The children are in the foster families’ homes whenever school is out, but Orangewood is there to support with on-call staff.
“There’s a lot of myths out there, a lot of beliefs about youth in foster care,” said Sorrells, who is herself a product of the foster care system. “The biggest one is that they’re here because they’ve done something wrong or it’s their fault. I think that’s the biggest myth, especially about teenagers, out there. The reality is that a lot of teenagers just want a loving family and a loving home.
“At the end of the day, the opportunity to provide this to one person in the world could change so much.”
Justin and Rachael Davis know they are making a difference. Their foster daughter has plans of attending college and becoming a heart surgeon.
She already has the hearts of Justin and Rachael, who still feel that they have more to give.
“Right now we’re maxed out,” Rachael Davis said. “[But] I think I would do it again.”
For more information or to apply for the Youth Connected program, visit orangewoodfoundation.org/ycp.
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