Our Founding Story – The Need and Heart Behind Finally Family Homes
Hi! I’m Christina Dronen. My husband, Eric Dronen, and I are the founders of Finally Family Homes. If you’re looking for our founding 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 felt like God was calling us to establish it in Santa Clarita, CA in LA County, the most challenging place for foster youth to age out 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…
Founding Story – Addressing Growing Problems
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.
When we found out that current and former foster kids make up a substantial portion of the homeless, that right now at least 1,000 youth 16-24 are sleeping on the streets of Los Angeles – we knew more had to be done.
We started volunteering more regularly both with the homeless and with foster young adults.
On a more personal level…
I had made a friend who was going through a lot of struggles, including unplanned pregnancy, addiction issues, 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 I saw how broken the system is. I learned how incredibly difficult it is to even get by, much less improve your situation – when you don’t have 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. It was a beautiful experience and we were so blssed to have welcomed her into our lives.
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 “founding 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. They stood in stark contrast to the youth I had met here in the U.S. who were defensive and struggling with hope. The youth here know when someone’s hired to care for them and it’s a very bitter pill to swallow.
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.
Below you can watch Dasha share her story in her own words.
Our Unique Vision
Dasha’s story testifies to the powerful impact that love, support, and community can have on the trajectory of kids like her.
This is why we stepped out in faith to start Finally Family Homes in 2017.
Not only are we moved by a mission to build real and lasting connections with the youth we serve – lifetime, family-like connection, but we also believe the legacies of these kids need to be restored.
What I mean is – so much of the help is pass-through help – a place to stay for the night, for the month, or until you reach the next age of being “too old.”
Kids who move out of a forever home – who never entered foster care- have a place to go at Thanksgiving, winter. and summer breaks. They have a place to crash when life gets hard. They get birthday presents, Christmas presents, and help out of tough situations. In fact, kids are living at home into their 20’s at the highest rate in US history.
These all “luxuries” that aged out foster youth don’t have.
But at Finally Family Homes – we don’t believe in “too old” for a family. We believe every child needs to enter adulthood connected to a family and a home.
That’s why we are also helping youth build to own their own tiny homes on wheels. We want them to have more stability than the pass-through help they get. Housing vouchers and food stamps are not a good long term plan.
We want to give them the dignity and opportunity of self-sufficiency to build an economic foundation for themselves.
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 founding story! If you’d like to know more, you read up more on the