Marie Branes entered foster care at the age of 5. She’s now 24.
“I don’t really remember a lot, I believe that after talking with a therapist, that a lot of my memories have been suppressed,” she said. Branes was put in the foster care system because of the physical and mental abuse she endured from both her parents.
Branes has an older sister that would take her in from time to time, who Branes said was her role-model. To this day, Branes occasionally speaks with her father, but not her mother.
In San Diego County, there are over 3,000 foster kids. That’s according to Don Wells, with Just in Time for Foster Youth. He said about 2,000 are in out-of-home placements, about 800 receive in-home services and the others are in extended foster care for ages 18-21.
Now, with the coronavirus pandemic, these kids face a unique set of challenges without the support of parents guiding them.
The stress of transitioning from foster care to adulthood was never an easy path, but it was made worse by the coronavirus pandemic, which has further complicated the process of finding a job or somewhere to live.
When the pandemic broke out, Just in Time staff reached out to hundreds of their participants, including Branes, to find out what they needed.
Their concerns included food insecurity, loss of income leading to housing issues, education disruption and fear of isolation and emotional anxiety.
Thanks to "Just In Time" and the college bound program, Branes is in her last year at San Diego State University.
“I am living in the dorms cause I don’t have anywhere else to go so that’s been weird to explain to people,” she said. “Doing everything through Zoom is hard and not having that in-person human interaction is hard,” she added.
Still Branes is taking advantage of Just In Time's online resources and will finish her schooling, even if it’s through distance learning.
“My goal would be to work with foster youth and getting them to higher education,” she said.
She believes foster kids, like herself, are tough and used to major life challenges, and regardless of COVID-19, she and others will push forward.
“We are really resilient and we are determined. So we are going to do what we have to, to make things work,” she said.
If you’d like to volunteer your time to Just In Time or make a donation to the organization, click here.