Youth Voices: Samantha’s Story
By Shaoming Chang
County of Orange Social Services Agency
Like many young adults, Samantha, 20, balances work and school life. She attends Santa Ana College while working part-time as a pizza delivery driver. Samantha is determined to earn an associate degree in criminal justice and transfer to a four-year university. She credits her drive to her brothers and sisters.
“When I was 9, dad walked out on us and mom was using [drugs]. She wasn’t there for us emotionally and physically. I became the mother figure to my siblings. At 14 I started running away. Then one day, I looked at them [siblings] and I knew I didn’t want them to feel alone. I wanted to be an example — a positive role model for them. In 2020, I graduated from continuation high school and moved into an independent living home. It’s because of my siblings — they motivate me to do well.”
While in foster care, Samantha experienced positive relationships with Orangewood Children and Family Center and short-term residential therapeutic program staff. But it was the connection among other youth that made a difference. “The foster youth I met and connected with — we became friends. We still keep in contact. The connection is important. We don’t feel so alone. We understand each other. We all went through the system and have a special bond.”
Reflecting on her experience in foster care, Samantha noted a few resources and services she did not receive but feels youth could benefit from. Opening a savings account allows youth to save money at an early age so they can pay for future expenses. But she learned by law, youth are unable to open an account on their own. Parents or caregivers need to set up a custodial or joint account – but some caregivers are reluctant to do that. Another helpful resource for youth in care is to receive holistic healing and therapy options such as yoga.
“I wish I knew more about the resources available to former foster youth. For example, the Orangewood Foundation offers grants and housing options. The grants are helpful in paying for school expenses. Overall, I am fortunate to not have a bad experience in the system.”
Samantha is grateful for the opportunity to share her story and serve as a voice for youth directly impacted by foster care. We wish Samantha all the best and continued success as she navigates the next phase in her life’s journey.