Every year, approximately 25,000 teenagers transition out of foster care without the support of a family. Marisol once believed she would be part of this number and was starting to feel anxious about facing life on her own. Her journey through the foster care system had spanned most of her life—5,176 days to be precise—and had involved moving from one foster home to another until she eventually found herself in a group home. Though hope to find a family had started to dwindle, Marisol felt a renewed sense of optimism when she met Scott Barry, MARE’s Wendy’s Wonderful Kids recruiter.
“My NorthStar is to find permanency for a kid — a safe, stable, loving home that will help them heal,” Barry passionately shares. His daily focus revolves around orchestrating visits for all fifteen children on his caseload, scheduling calls with their families, social workers, teachers, and all those who are important parts of their lives. Scott clearly remembers how whenever he met Marisol during these visits, she would ask him: “Have you found me a family yet?”. And then, one day, he was finally able to deliver the long-awaited good news.
At first, Marisol met Mom Heather for dinner and then the rest of the Santana Clan: Dad Edwin, sister Valerie, brother Eddie, and adorable baby sister Vivienne. They had an immediate sense of connection and they bonded together quickly. After numerous visits with the Santanas, some memorable sleepovers, and outdoor adventures, Marisol transitioned into their home. Adapting to family life presented its challenges, but with Scott's unwavering support and the warmth of her new family, everyone embraced and adjusted to their new reality. Then, on March 17th, 2023, Marisol officially became a Santana. The joyous occasion drew their entire extended family to town to show their support.
“We are super grateful to MARE and Scott specifically. Without MARE there wouldn’t be a newest daughter,” share Heather and Edwin Santana. Throughout this process, Scott provided personalized support not only related to the adoption itself but also tending to practical and emotional aspects to ensure a seamless transition. For example, arranging for cherished family photos and assisting with the administrative hurdles of Marisol's transition to a public high school.
Now, as the Santana family looks ahead to the future and the experiences that await them, Marisol's personal growth has been remarkable. She successfully transitioned to a public high school, celebrated her graduation, and is currently enrolled in a program designed to equip her with the skills and knowledge needed for her journey into adulthood.
“There are so many of us aging out and we have nowhere to go. When I was about to turn eighteen, I thought I was going to be completely homeless. I don’t know where I’d be,” Marisol reveals, highlighting the challenge many teens face. Marisol doesn’t know what the future holds, but regardless of the direction she ultimately chooses, she knows her loving family will support her every step of the way.
Watch even more of the Santana Family's adoption story below: