Family relationships

FosterClub Alum Turned Foster Parent Raises Money to Buy Teen the QuinceaƱera Dress of her Dreams

Quinceanera Dress

For the first month after Marisol* moved in with former FosterClub Lived Experience Leader Jenn Martinez-Pettet and her husband Michael, all Marisol watched were videos of quinceañeras, which are special milestones for teens of Latina or Hispanic descent to mark their transition into womanhood. Marisol’s 15th birthday was fast approaching, and she dreamed of her own elegant, festive celebration.

There was just one problem: Marisol was in foster care.

Unfortunately, being in foster care causes many young people to miss out on important milestones, especially culturally relevant ones. It’s far too common for young people in foster care to be placed with families who neither share their heritage nor make efforts to instill a sense of cultural identity in the young people who come into their homes. 

The effect of losing one’s culture can be devastating.

“The foundation of our lives is our culture,” Jenn, who spent two years in California’s foster care system, said. “When you have these children who are being torn away from their homes they can lose that.”

So Jenn, whose own Latina heritage meant she knew first-hand the importance of quinceañeras, stepped in.

Jenn didn’t waste any time cobbling together money for Marisol’s dress. She enlisted the financial support of multiple local nonprofit organizations, convinced the dress store to give her a 25% discount, started an online fundraiser, and pitched in from her and Michael’s savings. Finally, the family had the $1,200 necessary to purchase the dress Marisol dreamed of.

Since Marisol’s 15th birthday came just three months after she arrived at Jenn’s home, there wasn’t enough time to throw a quinceañera celebration for her this year. Instead, Jenn will throw a party next year for Marisol’s 16th birthday. But that didn’t mean Marisol’s 15th went unacknowledged: Jenn’s family took her out for a special dinner and of course hired a photographer to take stunning pictures of Marisol in her beautiful new dress!

“She looked and absolutely felt like a princess,” Jenn said. “It was really wonderful to see her smile.”

*Name has been changed

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