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Foster Care Youth Nationwide Have Support Through Nonprofit

 

Foster children enjoying new bikes thanks to Together We Rise.

 

October 30, 2021

By Laurie Hanson

Collectively making positive changes for hundreds of children daily in foster care nationwide is Together We Rise, an Orange County nonprofit based in Brea.

By working with thousands of volunteers, social workers, CASA advocates, and other partners, Together We Rise is transforming the way kids experience foster care. With their service-based programs, they have provided a way for individuals who cannot become foster parents to still have a meaningfully way to help children in it, according to Dahlia.

“Our primary goal is to help those experiencing foster care and through that we’ve helped tens of thousands of foster families nationwide,” she added. “We work with hundreds of foster agencies, social workers, CASA advocates, and others to bring our programs to youth across the nation.”

Together We Rise began with after school sports camps, progressed to cross country clothing closet tours, and established their nationwide service activity programs including Sweet Case Duffle Bags and STEM boxes.

“Our foundation has allowed us to provide new bicycles, college supplies, and Birthday Boxes to ensure that every child in foster care can feel celebrated on their birthday, even if they are in a nontraditional or emergency placement,” said Mary Grace Moreno, a 3 year employee.

Founded in 2008, Together We Rise began after Danny Mendoza discovered his 9-year-old cousin was living in a car. He wanted to help but ran into obstacles because he was under the age of 21. Danny persevered with the desire to help other youth in similar situations.

“Instead of giving up, Danny decided to help children in foster care without becoming a foster parent,” said Moreno. “After telling others about his vision, he was inspired by encouragement from friends and colleagues to use his ambition to help others and start a new organization.”

With the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, Moreno says the needs within the foster care system have only been more heightened. In their response, Together We Rise amassed its community resources to address the urgent need, especially ones impacting college-age foster care youth, according to Moreno.

“As we continue to navigate through these tough times, our mission of supporting individuals in foster carries on.”

Immediate needs are met in the Rapid Response program, a safety net part of Together We Rise which helps foster college-age students transitioning from school into a career. Its purpose is to eliminate barriers that hinder current and former foster youth from continuing their education.

“Alongside our network of partners, we are dedicated to changing college foster care students through empowerment, personal and professional development, and events-based fundraising,” said Moreno.

Together We Rise in partnership with the Fund II Foundation has a program called the Family Fellowship, which supports college-bound foster youth with financial, educational, and wrap-around higher education scholarships designed to support kids through their college years and into a career. It is through the generosity of Hope D. Smith and her husband, Robert F. Smith, the president and founding board of director for the Fund ll Foundation, that each chosen student receives up to $18,000 per year for up to 5 years, with continued guidance during and after their education. It is the vision of Family Fellowship to change the legacy of aged-out foster youth. The program stresses innovation, exploration, and discovery in their development into a modern workforce.

“Our Family Fellowship scholarship and Rapid Response programs help those who are currently in the system as well as those who’ve aged out,” said Moreno. Even greater help is available through Together We Rise with another program they created, Foster Together, a supplemental support network for foster families designed to support one another.

“Between 45-65 percent of foster families quit during the first year. Overall, 30 to 40 percent of current families choose not to continue fostering each year. By matching foster families with volunteer support groups, Foster Together aims to take care of those taking care of foster youth,” according to www.fostertogether.com.

The website further explains how foster parents sign on for so much more than simply adding a child to their family, and how oftentimes they feel overwhelmed and isolated by the unexpected challenges that subsequently come with fostering.

“By partnering with Foster Together support squads with families, a secure network can be created that makes them feel cared for and appreciated. When foster families feel supported, they can create better experiences for children in care,” according to www.fostertogether.com.

Many holiday initiatives are coming up, and they invite everyone to open their hearts for children in foster care.

“When you look at some of the big issues our society faces, homelessness, the school to prison pipeline, food insecurity, human trafficking, educational inequality, these are just a few of the issues disproportionality impacting those who’ve experienced foster care,” explained Moreno. “It is imperative that we come TOGETHER to support the foster care community.”

To donate or volunteer, please visit online at www.togetherwerise.org.

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