Hi! I’m Christina Dronen. My husband, Eric Dronen, and I are the founders of Finally Family Homes. If you’re looking for our origin story, why we started this charitable organization for foster youth, you’re at the right place!
Finally Family Homes is our vision for helping kids who are aging out of the foster care system without ever having found a family or home. These youth are at increased risk of homelessness, incarceration, and human trafficking.
We chose to establish it in Santa Clarita, CA because we wanted to be in LA County, the most challenging for foster youth in the nation. We think Santa Clarita the best location in the county to start helping house and mentor the foster kids who are aging out of foster care. It’s a safe community and there’s a community college nearby, which former foster youth can attend for free through the State.
The idea started in 2016…
Homelessness On The Rise
Our church at that time, Pacific Crossroads, spoke often about the homeless population in Los Angeles, which has gotten worse in recent years.
There are now over 60,000 homeless in LA, and about 75% are unsheltered.
Current and former foster kids make up a substantial portion of the homeless.There are now nearly 60,000 homeless in Los Angeles and the vast majority of those are unsheltered. #homeless #losangeles Click To Tweet
Having an interest in tiny homes, I began to put together ideas to use them to help the homeless. At that time, I abandoned them as too overwhelming and unattainable.
On a more personal level…
I had made a friend who was going through a lot of struggles, including unplanned pregnancy, addiction issues, living on the edge of homelessness, and more.
Over the course of a few years, I helped and connected with her. I learned how complicated and difficult it is to survive, especially in Los Angeles. I saw the brokenness in her life and in the system and how detrimental it is, not having a safe, stable community or place to live.
An Adoption of Sorts
Around the same time as this we “adopted” a young adult from China. We connected with a young woman attending grad school here from China through our church.
She was looking to connect with a family locally. We invited her to join us for holidays, birthdays, and sometimes just to hang out and have dinner.
Now we consider her a part of our family.
A Mission Trip
Summer of 2017 I went on the mission trip to Kyrgyzstan with my church.
Our primary work was to help the Kyrgyz church run a local kids camp. There, in Kyrgyzstan, less than 1% of the people are Christian. Helping hands are much needed to help serve the hundreds of kids who attend camp and to encourage the local church.
One of the ministries of this church is to care for the local orphans who have aged out of the system there.
In their “origin story” the pastor of the Kyrgyz church was moved to start a home for aged-out orphans after a conversation with an orphan girl. Sincerely, the little girl asked, “Is it true that when we leave here, the boys will go to jail and the girls will become prostitutes?”
Sadly, he couldn’t say no. Orphans are put out on the street at 16 with no resources or help. The church there decided that wasn’t good enough. Thankfully they have a home that not only houses & feeds the youth, but connects them to mentors, education, and the local community.
A Caring Community Makes a Difference
As I volunteered at the church, I worked alongside some of the girls being helped by their home, the Oak House. I saw the power of a caring community.
These young women were sweet, poised, and hopeful.
I saw in action something very close to what I thought to do here in the US. Truly, the personal investment in these youth resulted in hope and peace.
A Home for Orphans
One of the amazing young ladies I met was Dasha. She and the other girls I met from the Oak House made a huge impact on me because I had volunteered back here in the United States with some foster youth.
Here, at a cold government facility, they were rough and tumble – defensive rather than hopeful. They had a place to stay, education, and food – but they were surrounded by hired employees and they were quite aware of it.
Seeing the difference, gave me a picture of the kind of hope having a place like the Oak House can provide for foster teens here.
Her story testifies to the powerful impact that love, support, and community can have on the trajectory of kids like Dasha.
It gave me the motivation to step out in faith to start Finally Family Homes.
I met Dasha July 18th 2017. Finally Family Homes was officially founded less than a month later.
Below you can watch Dasha share her story in her own words.
A Focus on Foster Care
Through our church’s awareness campaign we learned about the need in Los Angeles to help foster kids.
Foster youth are over-represented in homelessness, human trafficking, and prison.
As soon as we learned about these outcomes, we revisited this idea of helping house homeless former foster kids. Eric was quickly on board. He values investing in family, helping others, and teaching.
Our Unique Vision
So here we are, just getting going. Our vision is to be long-term and personal: housing, mentoring, and loving kids who are aging out of foster care. Ultimately, it includes offering a place for them to come back to for support when needed, like a family.
We don’t believe in “too old” for a family. We believe every child needs to enter adulthood in a family and a home.
We put together a short video here, we share our heart for helping aging out foster youth.
Thanks for taking the time to learn more about our origin story! If you’d like to know more, you read up more on the