Lifting Foster Youth at Heritage Homes
Together We Rise’s ability to help foster youth is dependent upon our community partners and friends. Today we want to gush over our friends at Heritage Homes. They recently came to pick up some donations and gave us some insight into how we help the foster community.
Meet Deonne McLean and Heritage Group Homes
Deonne is a licensed therapist at Heritage Youth Services and has been working with Heritage for 15 years! Heritage Group Homes, Inc. is one of our favorite foster care agency partners. We’ve worked with them for years and love to see how they support the local community.
Heritage Homes centers their group homes for foster youth are a highly structured but intimate family-like setting. Currently, they support 11 different programs with five 6-bed group home facilities in Los Angeles County. They specialize in serving children ages 12 through 17 years.
Together We Rise has been such a generous and kind partner to Heritage and the older teen girls that we serve. Oftentimes, older foster youth are left out of support and engagement but TWR has delighted our youth with personalized clothing donations, such as sports jerseys, shoes, and backpacks as well as other donations that are appreciated by the youth. Our girls are always so excited and thrilled when they learn that TWR is supporting the agency and gifting them with items that are teen-specific and fun, brand names that all teens love receiving!
Teens in Foster Care Need More Support
We appreciate organizations like Heritage Homes because of their work with older kids in foster care. Daily, we see how people can lack empathy towards the struggles of teens. Regardless of whether they are in foster care or not. Together We Rise has several initiatives to support teens, including the largest scholarship fund for foster youth in the US, the Family Fellowship. Teens in foster care need more support and it is imperative that we continue to look for diverse ways to empower them.
Making Memories With Teens
Speaking of empowering teens. Earlier this month we hosted a Valentine’s Day volunteer event where we assembled self-care gifts for teens. Once the event was over, we rang up Heritage Homes to see if they might like these gifts for their teens.
Some of our girls were able to visit the Brea warehouse of TWR when picking up donations and really loved meeting some of the staff, spending time at the office, and learning more about the wonderful organization. The girls felt loved and special receiving the thoughtful and beautifully presented gifts.
The timing was perfect because the Heritage Home team had a Valentine’s Day picnic in the works! Deonne shares,
Valentine’s day is often a holiday that can be triggering for our youth due to lack of or poor support systems and connections with family and friends. Cinthia wanted to create an event that would shift the focus back to Self-Love and appreciation of one another.
Valentine Day Picnic event focuses on creating a calming and soothing environment for our youth as well as working on strengthening their connections with peers. Our Valentine’s Day event was a big success. The girls were able to feel valued, appreciated, and special on that day. The girls were also able to feel love and appreciation from each other instead of seeking it from others who are not invested in their wellbeing.
We were also able to make this special event into a more therapeutic activity where the girls were able to express how they care for each other by listing positive qualities they see in each other, including the staff they work with who were also part of the picnic.
Look at the beautiful setup! Just look!!!
Lifting the Foster Care Community
Together We Rise works to provide supplemental support to children in foster care and their families. Unfortunately, the needs within the community are expansive. Deonne identifies a lack of transitional support from group homes to independent living to be a big need within the community.
The biggest need we have seen in the foster care community is the lack of resources to help our youth once they have transitioned from a group home into independent living. The lack of establishing long-term and quality interpersonal relationships. Children and youth in the foster care system often struggle with forming positive and healthy relationships and support systems.
It takes a lot of time, energy, and dedication to move the foster care community forward. We asked Deonne why she continues to works with foster youth. She says,
I choose to work with the foster care community because I wanted to share the things I was fortunate to learn in high school and college to a community that was not as fortunate. I wanted to instill hope and guidance for a brighter future for the youths in foster care.
Supporting Teens in Foster Care- What Keeps Deonne Inspired
The thing that inspires us to get up and work every day is always my promise to the kids that I will be there to support them through whatever they’re facing each day because I know how important consistency is in this field. I am motivated to show up for each kid every day. It is inspiring to see the positive effect you can have on someone’s day.
We also get to witness our youth’s growth and progress throughout the months of working with them. Sometimes something as simple as assisting our youth succeed in academics, social clubs, or employment can be refreshing and motivating to continue working with the foster care community.
How You Can Help Kids in Foster Care
Deonne and the Heritage Homes team have a very simple belief, care and support for foster youth can be shown in different ways. Simply by volunteering, donating, mentoring, and including foster youth in events, you are helping. Foster youth want what we all want, to be seen and heard.
We asked Deonne what she’s learned from working with foster youth, she shares,
The greatest thing we’ve learned since working in the foster care community is the importance of mental health and healing from past trauma. Also, in order to make a difference in the lives of the youths, pay attention to the spoken and unspoken needs that are expressed differently in each individual youth.
For people looking to foster, Deonne advises.
Our advice to people who would like to become a foster parent is to be patient and not to give up on our youths. Have lots of communication and be open-minded. Children and youth do not have a manual and there is not one specific parenting style that fits all. It requires a lot of communication and flexibility to accommodate to each youth’s needs.
In conclusion, we want to thank all of our volunteers who helped with the Valentine’s Day self-care kits and of course our friends at Heritage Homes. Deonne and Cinthia are doing excellent work with the teens at Heritage Homes and we can’t wait for y’all to visit our RISE Clothing Vault opening later this spring.
Click HERE to help support teens through our new RISE Clothing Vault.