By Yasmeen Salama / Asst. News Editor
By Yasmeen Salama / Asst. News Editor
From the jumbled pile of toys in the sun room to the too-big couches filling up a living room barely large enough to fit five people comfortably, Jan Taylor’s tiny house had an inviting, cozy feel.
“Even when I was a little kid I always wanted to be the mom of a thousand kids,” Taylor said.
Taylor has lived in the tiny house for nearly 15 years with her three children, two of whom were adopted.
More often than not, the small family shares the space with a foster child.
During those same 15 years, Taylor fostered 12 children ranging in age from infants to teenagers, adopted a drug baby and a premature baby.
She has volunteered with just about every organization she could find that focuses on helping foster children.
Taylor, a member of Child SHARE, a support program for parents adopting or fostering children, has made it her life’s mission to help as many teen foster youths as possible.
Along with volunteering and working with different associations, Taylor is also the founder of the Lost Youths Ministry at her church in Nuevo.
Acting as their lighthouse in a storm, she has opened her home to them as a warm and safe place to start out their lives.
“Most people won’t take teenagers,” she said. “They don’t know how to handle them or what to do with them.”
Taylor explained the constant replacement of children into different foster homes is one of the most detrimental things they experience because they don’t develop lasting friendships and personal relationships.
With each new placement comes a new face to acquaint themselves with, new rules to learn and a new school to fit into.
“They lose something like six months of education every time they get moved,” Taylor said with a reproving shake of her head.
Recognizing this problem, the non-profit organization Child SHARE, an acronym for Support Help Advocacy Resources Encouragement, aims to support foster parenting and adoption by providing advice on what parents can do for these children.
Taylor joined the organization and hopes to someday advocate for it.
But Taylor already advocates for foster children in a different way.
Sometimes, social workers may take an extra step to help the children by filing for a court appointed special advocate, a qualified volunteer who represents the child in court as well as provides advice and guidance.
Taylor is one such advocate in Riverside County.
She looks through files of foster youths who are in dire need of help and selects the youth she wants to represent.
She specifically searches for pregnant teens and gives them the guidance that she said a mother would normally have given.
“I can help them apply for college, or for a job,” Taylor said, counting on her fingers.
“I’ll sit with them in court . . . I sometimes will take them to an interview and give them advice on how to present and things like that,” she said.
“I want to teach them to be independent, not dependent, which is what they learn if we don’t step in and help,” Taylor said.
Life gets worse for them once they reach age 18 and effectively “age out” of the foster system.
“Ninety percent of former foster youths wind up homeless, incarcerated or dead,” she said. “That’s just not acceptable to me.”
To prevent these possibilities from happening, Taylor searches for these youths at the homeless shelter in Hemet.
One of the people she found is Molly Robinson, a former foster teen who “aged out” of the system.
“She would drive me down to the Ross Distribution Center,” Robinson said, “and kind of encouraged me to try for the job.”
“It’s just like, whenever I needed someone to talk to, she was there to talk to,” Robinson said. “I just really appreciate everything she’s done for me.”
Robinson now lives in transitional housing, and thanks Taylor for helping her get there.
With about 20,000 youths aging out of the foster system each year nationwide, Taylor said the wait list for transitional housing can be up to six months.
She has recently diverted her efforts to increasing the amount of transitional housing available, hoping that someday her Lost Youths Ministry will provide it.
“That’s my biggest dream,” Taylor said, nodding to herself and smiling warmly at the thought.
“To get more transitional housing, I don’t really care who does it or where, or if I’m the one to start it.”
“But if I can help it along,” she said with a shrug and another nod. “That’s my dream.”