May is National Foster Care Month and a time to recognize those that offer support to families. The Rose Again Foundation is a nonprofit organization that has served more than 1,000 foster infants, children and emancipated foster youth in Temecula and Murrieta since it was established eight years ago.
“When Rose Again first started, we spent several months deciding where we could do the most good without duplicating services that were already being provided to foster children and emancipated foster youth,” Chief Executive Officer Rhonda Reinke said. “We reached out to foster parents, foster teens, social workers, law enforcement, foster agencies, foster group home management and city officials to find out where we could do the most good. Our goal was to provide services that would improve the health, wellness, education and self-worth of foster children and emancipated foster youth to help them heal, thrive and be all they were meant to be. We then developed our programs and services based on what we learned.”
Reinke’s granddaughter, Natalie Rose (Shadle) Dixon created the foundation while she was a 17-year high school senior after serving at orphanages in Guatemala and Mexico, where she developed a desire to serve her community and in particular, less fortunate children. Dixon remains involved as a board director and volunteer.
The nonprofit’s name has dual significance: the founder’s middle name is Rose and a Christian reference that Christ rose again.
“We work to help severely neglected, abused and traumatized foster children to be able to say, ‘I rose again’ above my pain and trauma, to heal and thrive,” Reinke said.
She knows that fostering can be very fulfilling but may also be filled with many challenges. She always thanks foster parents for opening their hearts and homes to innocent children in need. She said the responses are usually “it is us who have been blessed” or “I get more than I give” and other similar sentiments.
Referrals for Rose Again Foundation services come through placement agencies and word-of-mouth from foster parents. Programs are meant to achieve a mission to “meet the needs and enhance the lives of foster children and emancipated foster youth in our community.” These are funded by grants, donors and fundraising.
The foundation’s “Emergency/New Placement” program supplies gift bags for children when they first arrive at a foster home, sometimes with nothing but the clothes on their backs. New clothes, shoes, a handmade blanket, a backpack with school supplies, books and toys, and cards of encouragement are some of the items that may be included.
Nathanial Porter, who became a foster parent in 2015, said the Rose Again Foundation is a “beacon in the valley.” In May 2020, one- and 3-year-old boys were placed with Porter at his Murrieta home.
“After I accepted the placement, the boys were at my home within 45 minutes. All they had were the diapers on their bottoms. An hour after that, Rhonda and Natalie were at my house with clothes, diapers, books, toys; everything I could possibly need, they brought it with them,” Porter said. “RAF doesn’t just provide stuff, but love and compassion, too. In my opinion, they are in a league of their own.”
The foundation’s “Tutor Me” program provides financial assistance for in-home and online tutoring to foster children. Most foster children are behind in school due to frequent moves or lack of formal education.
“We partner with Club Z Tutoring of Temecula to provide one-on-one tutoring to help foster kids catch up to their grade level at school,” Reinke said. “The need for this program increased considerably during COVID.”
The foundation partners with local business owners, the cities of Temecula and Murrieta, schools, clubs and civic groups for discounted rates to foster children participating in its extracurricular activities program, Our Kids Soar.
“Rose Again provides financial assistance for foster kids to enjoy the activity of their choice, to assure the kids have the opportunity to learn, make new friends, have a healthy outlet for their pain and to just be a kid again,” Reinke said.
Porter, who has fostered five children and was able to adopt his first placement, said RAF has provided his foster children with funding to participate in extracurricular activities and includes them in its annual Bless the Child Christmas event where they receive gifts and gift cards from local sponsors.
Founder Dixon said the nonprofit provides valuable services and programs to foster children and emancipated foster youth, all of whom have suffered abuse, abandonment, neglect and/or trauma. Many suffer from PTSD.
“Foster kids struggle daily with the loss and separation of family. Emancipated foster youth struggle to make it on their own without family for guidance and support,” she said. “They are innocent victims of their circumstance. Rose Again’s programs help to improve the health and wellness, education and self-worth of these broken children.”
Maria Baldovinos, 24, is the foundation’s Program Administrator and its only paid staff member. Reinke has been a fulltime volunteer since the beginning, working with Baldovinos from a home office where they carefully budget their expenses to serve as many children as possible.
Baldovinos, who had been in and out of foster care since she was 8 years old, learned about the foundation when she aged out of the foster care system and became an emancipated foster youth at age 18. She was referred to the organization and found them very welcoming and supportive. She was helped with scholarships for college, financial assistance with food, shoes and clothes. She has worked at the foundation for three and a half years.
“I started off as a volunteer to give back, as I was grateful for everything they have done for me, then I became an intern and now the Program Administrator,” she said. “The best thing I like about the work that I do is being a witness to the incredible healing services that Rose Again Foundation has to offer to foster infants, children and emancipated foster youth. Coming alongside them on this journey and seeing these foster children slowly begin to heal is amazing to watch.”
Reinke said that with domestic violence and child abuse on the rise since COVID-19, they anticipate a sharp increase in children entering the foster care system once schools fully open up, and teachers and staff recognize and report the neglect and abuse some children have suffered. Baldovinos agrees that the challenges have looked different since the onset of the pandemic.
“The foster care system is hard enough on foster children but COVID made it much more challenging,” she said. “Some have not been able to visit their siblings or family members due to the restrictions of COVID, causing them to be lonelier than ever before. It has affected their education as well, especially those who were receiving additional school services. Distance learning can only do so much to help; they need the one-on-one help and support. The foster care system is so overwhelmed right now that social workers are having a difficult time finding foster homes during this pandemic.”
In recognition of Rose Again Foundation’s eight-year anniversary and Foster Care Awareness month, the nonprofit is seeking sponsors who will commit to a monthly donation of $8 to help provide valuable services and programs in the community as they continue “fostering our future.”
“Several of our foster parents and emancipated foster young adults donate monthly to help us continue to offer our services and to help serve even more kids,” Reinke said. “That tells us that our services are valuable and working, and we are doing something right.”
Baldovinos thinks there are never too many adults that can love and support a foster child and feels blessed by the support of her community.
“Having to figure life out and being expected to know it all at 18 years old can be extremely overwhelming and scary. Had it not been for the support I have today, I would not be the successful woman that I am today,” she said. “I have received, but I have also learned the true joy in giving back. I have faced many challenges that would have been impossible to face without the support of Rose Again Foundation.”
For more information or to donate go to www.RoseAgainFoundation.org or call (951) 970-2518.