SAN DIEGO — A San Diego woman who lost the will to speak as a child after her mother died is sharing her story. In this Zevely Zone, I visited the non-profit organization Just in Time for Foster Youth in Mission Valley. For anyone who has spent a single day in foster care anywhere across the country, there's a wonderful staff and woman waiting for you just inside their door. "Welcome to our front desk," said Simone Hidds-Monroe. When young adults in foster care turn eighteen, Just in Time for Foster Youth is waiting. For example, if someone is hungry? "We have a full kitchen," said Simone. "This is where we first receive our young people."
Simone knows first-hand what's it like to live in foster care. She showed us pictures from her childhood. "That is my mom, that was our last photo taken together as a family," said Simone.
Her mother died when she 13-years-old and for two weeks, Simone and her young siblings lived alone. I asked her if that was legal. "To be on our own at that age? Absolutely not, no, it wasn't legal, but it was the only thing we knew," said Simone. Their mother's dying wish was for the siblings to stay together.
"When my mom passed away, I just stopped talking," said Simone. She felt powerless when she entered the foster care system. Her will to speak slowly returned. Fortunately, she and her siblings were allowed to all attend San Pasqual Academy, a residential high school for foster teens. "I had a really positive time in foster care and at San Pasqual Academy," said Simone who became valedictorian before heading off to college. "I went to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo," said Simone. "I got my masters at San Diego State University."
Simone introduced me to Just in Time for Foster Youth's Chief Empowerment Officer Don Wells. He first met Simone when she was 17 years old. "She was the captain of the basketball team. She has always had that presence you know?" said Don. A presence that makes young adults feel like Just in Time is a new home. "Nobody does well if they are disconnected and the biggest gap that exists for young people in foster care is that they are disconnected," said Don.
If you need a job, a place to live or something as simple as a shower, walk through their door. "Everything that a family would provide their children is what we do here at Just in Time," said Simone. This, from a strong 31-year-old woman who found her voice. "Absolutely," said Simone. "I think my mom would be really proud."
Proud of a sibling four-pack that proudly calls themselves the Hidds-Kids. Simone showed me picture after picture and year after year of the Hidds-Kids growing up. They stuck together. "Yes, it's a good group, huh?" laughed Simone.
Simone's husband also grew up in foster care. The couple recently bought their first home. Every year, hundreds of young people, like Simone, leave the San Diego County foster care system to make a go at being self-sufficient adults. The majority of funding the non-profit survives on comes from private and corporate donations. If you'd like to make a donation or learn more information about Just in Time for Foster Youth, click here.