Making the transition from teenager to independent adult is challenging for most young people. Even in stable families, 18 year olds are rarely prepared to be completely self-sufficient. For teens in the foster care system, the challenges are even greater.
Each year, 100-150 foster teens in Orange County turn 18 and “age-out” of the foster care system without ever having been reunited with their families or having been adopted. Sadly, without the guidance, encouragement, and resources all children need, they are unprepared for adulthood and life. During the first two years on their own, 40-50% will become homeless – staying on friends’ couches, living in their cars, or sleeping in parks and other public spaces.
For over 35 years, Orangewood Foundation has been answering the call of vulnerable youth in our community, including homeless former foster youth. We were founded in 1981 to build an emergency shelter for Orange County’s abused and neglected children. The shelter, originally called Orangewood Children’s Home and now called Orangewood Children and Family Center, opened in 1985 and was deeded to Orange County Social Services to own and operate.
Over the years, our focus has evolved to creating programs that help foster teens make a successful transition to adulthood. Our mission today is to prepare foster and community youth to reach their greatest potential. We help almost 2,000 foster and community youth annually. Our programs focus on four critical areas: basic needs, housing, life skills & employment, and education.
Orangewood Foundation supports homeless former foster youth in a variety of ways. Our housing program offers them affordable, transitional housing for 18-24 months. Our Orangewood Resource Center (ORC), located at our offices in Santa Ana, helps them with basic needs.
The ORC provides less tangible but equally important things like encouragement, support, and direction. On any given day, our staff members provide a shoulder to cry on, serve as a cheerleading squad, and everything in between. The ORC also serves as an opportunity to introduce the youth to Orangewood’s other programs such as transitional housing, college scholarships, mentors, and independent living skills workshops.
If you’d like to help homeless former foster youth with basic needs, please consider holding a drive to collect non-perishable food or full-size new toiletries, or gathering a group of friends or co-workers to prepare lunch for our youth.
HomeAid has been ending homelessness with Orangewood since 1999, through the renovation of the Children’s Home and, most recently, an addition of the Dhont Community Center at the Academy. Orangewood is an annual recipient of HomeAid Essentials donations and over the years has received several playhouses for the children to enjoy.