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Last updated: 2016
At a young age, Florencia "Flo" Valenzuela learned that she could not rely on her drug- addicted parents to protect or provide for her and her brother. Some of Florencia's earliest memories include her mother taking her downtown to purchase crack, and her father passed out from heroin use. Because of her parent's drug use, Child Protective Services intervened and removed Flo and her brother from home, putting them into the foster care system. The instability and uncertainty of foster care were exacerbated by the back-and-forth cycle between foster homes and brief reunifications with her parents. Eventually, Flo found the courage to testify against her parents which freed her and her brother from ever having to return to their custody. The tough decision led her and her brother to the loving and stable home of her 28-year-old sister, Marcy.
Although still technically a child herself, Flo feels more like a co-parent to her brother. In her new home, Flo helps raise her brother by making sure that he has breakfast every morning, gets to school on time and completes his homework. After she has met his needs, Flo takes care of her other responsibilities, which include her schoolwork, volleyball practice, and volunteering at the Boys and Girls Club in Whittier. She believes education is the journey to freedom. Florencia is determined to break the perception and confront the stigma that foster youth can't succeed.
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