THE FOSTER CARE COMMUNITy
Austin Angels began in December 2009 when founder and CEO Susan Ramirez decided, along with her friends, to volunteer once a month. In 2010, while working full-time in the real estate industry, Susan was invited by one of her clients to attend a conference called “Together for Adoption.” Susan attended the conference and was encouraged by her client to go to a presentation on foster care. After initially telling her client that she wasn’t interested because she didn’t feel called to foster, Susan decided to attend that workshop, and her life and career were changed forever.
A judge led the presentation and shared about two boys, Billy and Tommy, who had similar backgrounds in the foster care system. They each entered care at the age of two and had parental rights terminated around the age of eight. During their time in care, they were placed in more than 30 placements, put on dozens of medications for behavioral and emotional needs, and diagnosed with multiple mental health conditions. The judge shared that Billy was adopted three weeks before aging out of the foster care system. After acclimating to his new family and lots of relational healing later, he grew up to start a child placement agency in Texas. Tommy, on the other hand, aged out of the foster care system at 18. With no plan in place and no one to call for support, Tommy committed suicide by jumping in front of a semi truck after leaving his group home.
not everyone is called to foster, and not
It was at this time Susan heard the judge speak the words that have now become Austin Angels’ mantra: “Not everyone is called to foster, and not everyone is called to adopt, but anyone can make a difference in a child's life.” The difference in Billy’s life was that he had a healthy, consistent adult who believed in him and told him that he was valuable. Susan heard this story and knew that she could no longer sit by and do nothing. She left the conference and began to specifically focus on meeting the needs of children in foster care and their caretakers.
In 2013, Austin Angels began a pilot Love Box program with a single mother fostering six teenage boys. Each month, a group of volunteers would put together a “love box" of items tailored to their specific needs and a handwritten note of encouragement for each child. Through the process of delivering the boxes, a bond between the foster children, foster parents, and volunteers formed. The volunteers showed up consistently each month for the boys, took an interest in their lives, celebrated their birthdays, and attended important events. The boys went from failing in school, struggling socially, and not attaching, to making straight As, making friends, and saying "I love you" for the first time. After a successful pilot program, the Love Box program was formally launched in January 2015. It has since grown to serve numerous families in the Austin area. In 2017, the Dare to Dream mentoring program was launched and began serving youth on a one-on-one basis.
National Angels launched its first chapter in 2016 and continues to grow and expand. Susan believes that every child deserves the opportunity to grow up to become the person he or she was always intended to become, and every chapter of National Angels will play a part in that vision.