Young people often come to Los Angeles seeking stardom. David*, a foster youth in Walden’s transitional housing program, prefers stars of a different kind. He’s headed to college this fall with the dream of studying aeronautical engineering.
David dreamed of becoming an astronaut even before coming to the United States from El Salvador at age 13. Since then, he has remained focused on his education.
“David thrives on knowing he is on the correct path to obtain his college degree,” said his social worker, April Chavez. “Nothing ever seems to deter him from achieving his goals, and he always finds productive ways to use the resources offered to him.”
For example, Walden’s program provides youth with stable housing and laptops, and helps them develop budgeting skills and open a savings account. David used the laptop to complete high school, submit college applications and register for college classes online. Since entering the program in August 2014, he has accrued over $5,000 through saving and investing in stock.
While Chavez admires David’s independence, she has also seen David open up socially and begin to build lifelong connections with his peers.
“So many things in my life have changed since entering foster care,” said David. “One of the biggest is having a lot of people who support me.”
David recognizes that college will give him a chance to make new friends and join student organizations, but he remains focused on earning A’s and getting along with his professors.
“You’ve got to have perseverance,” said David, when asked what advice he would give to other foster youth. “Sometimes when you try, you may not get to where you want to be right away. But you’ll get better at what you are trying to do, and you will get to where you are meant to be—so long as you never give up trying.”
* Client names and images changed to protect their privacy.
When Sara and her husband Chris decided they were ready to become foster parents, a mom Sara knew referred the couple to Walden for orientation and training. In 2015, the couple adopted a sibling group of four children ages 5 to 12.
Melinda was surprised at her social worker’s reaction when she revealed she was pregnant. The support she received from Walden and other youth in foster care kept her on track to graduate high school.
Surrogacy was the first option Mac & Dustin McCurdy considered when they wanted to start a family. Then they realized they could provide a stable home for kids in foster care. Walden prepared them to parent children who have experienced trauma.
“Will you please be my mom?” Deb said yes through tears, realizing that many foster children and youth who are considered medically fragile grow up in hospitals and never experience what it’s like to be part of a family.
Nora entered foster care at age 8, and spent most of her childhood separated from her siblings. Walden’s transitional housing plus foster care program prepared her to give her own children the stability she never experienced.