Lake Elsinore foster child overcomes obstacles to graduate high school

LAKE ELSINORE, Calif. (KABC) -- Like most kids his age, Daniel Smith of Lake Elsinore has plenty of hobbies. The 18-year old is fascinated by photography and video production, as well as performing stunts on his bike. And like many, he probably doesn't spend enough time cleaning his room.

But that's where the similarities end.

"My mom has mental health issues," said Smith. "And my dad kind of fell into drugs."

Smith has had it a little tougher than most; he's been in the Riverside County Department of Public Social Services as a foster child for several years.

"Not even having your own bed, you know. I slept on a couch, I slept in the garages here and there," said Smith. "I wasn't sure what the next turn really was, not knowing where I'd go from here was difficult for me."

For years, Smith bounced around from family member to family member, until an old family friend stepped back into the picture. Not just as a concerned neighbor -- this time Angelina Torrez volunteered to be a foster parent.

"He had his hard times," said Torrez. "He was always sort of independent, but he needed that guidance."

But two weeks ago, years of hard work paid off for Daniel Smith. He was one of 145 foster youth in Riverside County to graduate from high school. County officials say only about half of foster youth make it to graduation.

"I wasn't even really thinking about it when it happened," said Smith. "Being in the moment was so great. Just realizing this was it and high school was over; it's a great feeling and a big weight off my shoulders."

Within a month, he hopes to move out of the Torrez family's Lake Elsinore home, and enroll at a local community college. But Angelina Torrez says her days as a foster parent aren't over yet. Smith was her third foster child and she doesn't plan on stopping anytime soon.

"It's sad for kids in the system, but it's not their fault," said Torrez. "We're going to repaint, and I might take a couple months off, (but) we're good to go then. We're going to get some more kids."
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