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Background

SPA wooden signSan Pasqual Academy, the first residential education campus for foster youth in the nation, was created to address the needs of foster youth in San Diego County.  Today, the Academy is changing lives and helping to set our community’s foster youth on a path of success.

The idea of the Academy began to take hold in the late 1990s, when the Board of Supervisors, spearheaded by Supervisor Greg Cox and Supervisor Ron Roberts, along with the Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA) and the Presiding Judge of the Juvenile Court, voiced concerns about critical foster care issues.  The critical issues included the fact that many foster youth were experiencing high numbers of placements, they lacked fully developed independent living skills and they were leaving foster care without earning their high school diploma.

In 1999, the County of San Diego purchased the 238-acre campus from the Seventh Day Adventist Church.  The Church had operated the campus as a boarding school for more than 40 years.  Over the next two years, renovations were funded through a public-private partnership, with the local business community generously donating $14.5 million.

While the campus was being renovated, an HHSA team was assembled and consulted with national experts and more than 400 stakeholders about how the Academy program should be developed. Stakeholders included social workers, juvenile court judges, health care providers, educators, attorneys, law enforcement and community members.  A Youth Advisory Panel, including former and current foster youth, was organized to provide input and feedback on the development of the Academy.

A pivotal two-day conference, with more than 120 participants, was convened to brainstorm the Academy’s program content and physical appearance.  A Steering Committee of senior County administrators, community leaders, and the Board of Supervisors provided project oversight.  
A ribbon cutting ceremony took place in September 2001, and the first residents walked through the Academy’s doors in October 2001.  The Academy has the capacity to serve 184 youth.  Referrals are received and assessed year-round to determine if the program can best meet the referred youth’s needs.

Four collaborative partners on campus bring a seamless delivery of services to Academy youth, providing residential, academic, work readiness and dependency case management programs and services.  New Alternatives, Inc., San Diego County Office of Education, San Diego Workforce Partnership and San Diego County HHSA all work together to give youth a well-rounded environment where they can learn, grow, and thrive.  Since 2001, over 700 foster teens have been placed at the Academy and for many, it is a place they call “home.”