San Diego Foster Family Network Gives Children Under 5 Loving Homes Amid Surge in Foster Care System

By Natalie Anashkin
Natalie Anashkin
Natalie Anashkin
August 23, 2022 Updated: August 23, 2022

In recent years, San Diego County’s foster care system has exploded with new cases. Over a thousand children enter the system annually. From 2020 to 2021, 60 percent of those children were 5 years old or younger.

Organizations like Angels Foster Family Network have been working to connect young foster children to “resource families,” also known as “foster families.” Unlike the traditional foster system, Angels Foster Family Network ensures that each family only cares for one child, or one sibling set at a time, and primarily works with children under 5 years old.

The lasting stress and impact of the pandemic has made it very difficult to find new resource families, according to Jeff Wiemann, Angels executive director and former resource parent.

“In a given year we might have 250 to 300 requests for kids needing a family,” Wiemann said. “We’re at 220 already for this calendar year and 100 of those came out of East County.”

The need for families in San Diego inspired resource parents Max and Rae’ah Maningas to take the plunge into fostering while they were both students living in a two-bedroom apartment. Angels Foster Family Network helped the couple navigate their fostering experience while going through their own life changes, such as moving houses and building new careers.

“People have the preconceived notion that you have to be a couple, you have to be married, you have to be established,” Wiemann said. “We have everyone from all walks of life. If you have a love of children and you’re willing to risk your heart to care for somebody, that’s all we ask for.”

Max and Rae’ah were both pleasantly surprised at how their parents and extended families accepted their foster children with open arms and integrated them into their lives. Max and Rae’ah’s biological child shares her parents’ love of being a resource family, almost immediately asking “when is the next one coming?” when her new friend is permanently placed with a loving family.

Max and Rae’ah have since fostered five children and unexpectedly found that staying in contact with the biological parents of their foster children can be incredibly rewarding. “It’s unbelievable to see how much love they have when they realize that you’re just loving their kid,” Rae’ah said.

Rae’ah said she appreciated how for the past few Mother’s Days, the first messages she received in the morning were from her past and present foster children’s biological parents. Max said, “We’re here not to take away [the biological parent’s] baby, but to actually help them reconnect again.”

Through fostering and keeping in contact with their past placements, the couple has developed a network of family larger than they ever thought possible.

The Maningases and Weimann were each recently awarded a Certificate of Recognition on behalf of County Supervisor Joel Anderson for their dedication to providing exceptional care for foster children in San Diego County.

“People like Max, Rae’ah, and Jeff who are willing to extend their hearts and homes to young children in need make our community a better place,” Anderson said. “There are so many children in need of love and support in San Diego County. If you have ever considered fostering, I encourage you to reach out to a foster organization like Angels today and change a child’s life.”

Max and Rae’ah are astounded by the resilience of their foster children and how quickly they can flourish in a loving and stable home. “We’re just completely ordinary people,” Rae’ah said, “and other completely ordinary people can do this as well.”

For more information on Angels Foster Family Network, or to start your journey of becoming a resource family for a child or sibling group in foster care, visit their website at www.angelsfoster.org.

Natalie Anashkin is a legislative intern for San Diego County Supervisor Joel Anderson.