LOS ANGELES — In just a few days, 15-year-old foster child Paola Martínez will be reunited with her family.

“I feel good, but I also feel sad,” said Martínez.

What You Need To Know

  • LA has 33,000 foster kids of whom 58% are Hispanic and 24% are Black, according to DCFS

  • Around 89% of kids in LA's foster care system are ethnic minorities

  • DCFS is encouraging more people from all walks of life to sign up to become foster parents

  • It can take anywhere between one and three months to go through the approval process

Sad because she has made a lot of progress over the last two years in her foster home. She was flunking almost all of her classes when she first arrived.

“I’m more respectful. I take care of my grades. I don’t hang around the wrong crowd like I used to,” said Martínez.

The LA Department of Children and Family Services placed Martínez, who is Salvadorian, with Lucy Aguillon of Guatemalan descent in January of 2020.

However, Martínez is not the only one that benefits from the relationship. Aguillon said having Martínez around has helped her cope with the death of her 14-year-old daughter Rosa.

“I still have that hole in my heart and nothing will cover it, but it helps me working with the kids,” said Aguillon.

Over the last decade, Aguillon has fostered close to 60 children, and although each child comes with his or her own challenges, Aguillon has learned the pivotal role race and ethnicity play in making kids feel more comfortable and valued in a new home like language and food, to safety and hygiene.

“I had a little girl, she was African American, and I learned from her that you need to take care of the hair very special,” said Aguillon.

Honoring kid’s cultural traditions is important as well. This year Martínez turned 15, a milestone for Latinas known as quinceañera.

LA has 33,000 foster kids of whom 58% are Hispanic and 24% are Black, according to DCFS.

“It represents a lot, it represents how much I’ve grown and what I can accomplish by being good. It’s a perfect ending,” said Martínez. 

A bittersweet ending for Aguillon, who in some ways feels like she is losing another daughter. It is also a bittersweet ending for Martínez.

“A lot of people that were close to me have abandoned me,” said Martínez. “So I told myself I wasn’t going to get attached, but I did get attached. And I feel sad leaving but I miss my family too.”

However, Aguillon said she will always be a daughter, and she will always be family.

If you would like to learn more about how to become a foster parent, you can visit: dcfs.lacounty.gov.