The MENTOR Network

Leilani Lagua Mentor, California MENTOR

Leilani couldn’t stand seeing children neglected and without a home, so over a 13-year period, and as a single mother with two children of her own, she welcomed more than 37 foster children into her home. A few years after she stopped fostering, she felt the calling again, and this time reached out to California MENTOR’s Family Home Agency in Stockton to open her heart and home to an adult in need.

In 2009, just a year after becoming a Mentor, Leilani and her family welcomed the now 53-year-old man they support into their home. He has intellectual and developmental disabilities and is nonverbal, but that hasn’t stopped Leilani from helping him live a fulfilling life. Having grown up in an institution from the age of five until he moved into a group home at age 15, it wasn’t until he found Leilani and her family that he found a home to call his own. In Leilani, he found an advocate like no other.

“Leilani’s dedication and commitment to the individual she has opened her home to is what it means to be a Mentor and a true family home,” said Maria Simmons, program services coordinator at California MENTOR. “She is open to accepting him as he is and supporting him in growing however he needs to or wants to.”

Leilani’s parents, who are secondary Mentors and live with her, worked in a home for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. They treat this individual as family, as do her two children. He is at all the family gatherings and celebrations. During the day, Leilani’s father supports him as the secondary Mentor while Leilani is at work as a phlebotomist in the emergency room of a local hospital, where she has worked for more than 20 years.

Of her desire to care and advocate for others, and heal the physical and emotional wounds of trauma, Leilani said simply, “Maybe it’s my calling.”