DPSS News July 2020

MESSAGE FROM THE DIRECTOR Dear DPSS Team: Thank you for your focus on our clients and communities as we continue to adjust our practices in this coronavirus environment. Efforts to flatten the curve on

FROM FOSTER CARE TO UNIVERSITY LIFE

J une was a big month for Brianna Gonzalez. The 18-year-old foster youth graduated from Temescal Canyon High School in Lake Elsinore. While her senior year didn’t turn out quite exactly as she had hoped for due to COVID-19, she is looking forward to opening the next chapter of her life and career. Gonzalez, of Menifee, is one of the 11 foster youth in Riverside County who will be going to a four-year c o l l e g e a f t e r h i g h s c h o o l graduation. Countywide, there are about 100 students in foster care graduating in the high school class of 2020.

the pandemic have not gone as well as officials had hoped early on. As a result, the County of Riverside has again temporarily closed its buildings to curtail spread of disease. Most county employees, including those with DPSS, will continue to telework. No target date for reopening has been announced. DPSS is an essential organization. Our work and mission are vital to our communities. As a critical safety net, we must keep our doors open on a limited basis to those who need immediate resources to stay safe. Children and adults at risk of abuse and neglect need us now, possibly, more than ever. We will continue to safely comply with regulatory requirements for in-person customer assessments. Protective services programs will also continue to conduct mandatory in-person safety assessments and court-ordered family visits. Our organization continues to take several precautionary measures to keep you and our customers healthy while conducting DPSS business inside and outside of our facilities. These include but are not limited to mandatory health screenings, facial coverings, physical distancing, sneeze guards and sanitation of our buildings daily. More protective services workers continue to be trained and provided wi th personal equipment to use when recommended, to help them stay safe in the field; this will be done on an ongoing basis. Nevertheless, the most effective safeguard against COVID 19 remains you—and me. Over the past four weeks, Riverside County has seen a spike in COVID 19 cases, including a near doubling of cases within our own department. It is our understanding that none of our staff cases have been traced to customer contact, but rather external contacts. I have confidence in your strong focus to protect the wellbeing of our clients. I have seen time and again your proven commitment to keeping our communities—and one another—safe. The pandemic likely will be with us for some time. Our executive team will continue to communicate with you and ensure ongoing measures to carry out our mission while keeping our workforce healthy. I am truly grateful for your flexibility and grace as we find our path forward during this unprecedented event. Sayori

Brianna Gonzalez , 18, graduated from Temescal Canyon High School in Lake Elsinore and in August will be attending California Baptist University in August. (Photo courtesy of Brianna Gonzalez)

Foster youth represent one of the most vulnerable and at-risk student populations in California schools. In 2019, the high school graduation rate for foster youth in California public schools was just 56%, compared with 85% for all students.

Brianna is a very impressive young lady. Growing up in the child welfare system has its challenges and she has defeated the odds and earned her way into a university. I couldn’t be prouder of her; it was an honor to be a part of such a wonderful young lady’s life.

“Congratulations to Brianna and a l l ou r f os t e r you t h graduates of 2020, ” said Char i ty Douglas, program director of Children’s Services a t t he R i ve r s i de Coun t y Department of Public Social Services. “They are resilient and empowered to write a bright future for themselves and others whose lives they will positively impact.”

-Kim Hill, Social Services Practitioner III “

Born in Pennsylvania, Gonzalez moved to Riverside County in the sixth grade. That is when she says her world fell apart and she was placed in foster care. “In seventh grade, I was blessed to live with my amazing foster parents, who’ve been beside me this entire time,” she said. Now, with high school behind her, Gonzalez is ready for university life. She will be pursuing a nursing degree at California Baptist University in Riverside. She loves kids. Her dream is to become a pediatric nurse practitioner. “I know from being in foster care that not all kids like me get to go on to do their schooling,” she said, adding that she feels a strong support system and placement with a stable and loving family were keys to her success. Gonzalez hopes she will be moving into campus housing this August. “I can’t wait to be on my very own,” she added.

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RIVERSIDE COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SOCIAL SERVICES

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