COUNCIL BLUFFS, Ia. (KMTV) - Earlier this month, the Iowa Department of Human Services announced they were allocating over $5 million in new funding to help current and former foster care youth impacted by the pandemic.
Children's Square U.S.A. in Council Bluffs helps more than 100 young adults aging out of the foster care system.
"They've helped me so much, I can't thank them enough for what they have done for me," Maryah DeSantiago said.
DeSantiago aged out of the foster care system at 18. She is now in the aftercare program.
"I needed a place to live, I wasn't stable with my parents," DeSantiago said.
At one point, things got so unstable DeSantiago started sleeping on the streets of downtown Omaha before turning to Children's Square.
"On concrete floor, and my parents just didn't want to parent. That's how I'm going to put it," DeSantiago said. "It was sad."
DeSantiago credits her foster care parents as a godsend.
"With me staying with my parents, I probably would have not gone so far. Nothing against my parents but I feel like they didn't guide me in the way I needed it. I feel like my foster parents pushed me," DeSantiago said.
Now that DeSantiago is an adult and a college student, she has ambition. She says Children's Square helps support her goals.
"They honestly just helped me recently buy myself this vehicle I have now. The gal I work with, she helped me get into an apartment," DeSantiago said.
Debbie Orduna, the President and CEO of Children's Square U.S.A., says the pandemic has been trying for the foster care system, especially during the pandemic.
"When we think about the children who are in the foster care system, we know that they've had a lot of trials and tribulations in their life and they need more support and resources than children who may have parents or caregivers in their life to be able to provide stability for them," Orduna said.
More funding will give people like DeSantiago an extra layer of support.
"This support helps them identify how they best need help. That could be through assistance with housing, paying for food, education," Orduna said.
It's support DeSantiago will use to build on the dreams she has for her life.
"Do something in life, be able to have a degree. I want to eventually buy a house," she said.
Thanks to the Iowa Department of Human Services, former foster care youth will be eligible for a pandemic relief payment of $750. The funds can be used for rent, education, transportation, and mental health services. To apply, visit this link.