Debora Stolz was a single parent of eight children, four of them through adoption, and an active member in the foster care community. Stolz was president of the San Diego County Foster Parent Association and worked for more than 20 years as a trainer for resource parents with Grossmont College’s Foster, Adoptive & Kinship Care Education Program, an employee of the Foundation for Grossmont and Cuyamaca College.
Stolz was fatally shot, along with her daughter Lisa Stolz, on July 12, the result of a domestic dispute between her daughter and the father of their 6-month- old son. Police said they believed the two were killed by Justice Love Peace, who fled to Mexico and died a day later of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Foundation CEO Sally Cox said Stolz played an integral part of the program through her training and support to countless resource parents for foster youth in San Diego County in an email she sent to Grossmont and Cuyamaca College’s administrators, teachers and staff.
“Grossmont College’s program for foster care education is responsible for training all the resource parents in San Diego County and is the largest of its kind in the state,” stated Cox. “Deb was an important part of that program and she will be deeply missed.”
Foster, Adoptive & Kinship Care Education Program manager Barbara Wojtach said the program is 30 years old, funded by an allocation from the state through the college, and a small contract with the County of San Diego’s Child Welfare Services to provide a mentoring program for resource parents.
“We provide all of the education for resource parents, the new term for foster parents, and Debbie was a big part of that. She was a mentor,” said Wojtach.
Wojtach said everyone at the college and the entire foster care community is in shock. She said in Stolz’s 35 years of fostering, hundreds of foster youth lived in her home.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Wojtach. “But what I have heard over and over again is that there is just a huge hole in the foster care community now. Debbie did all those things, but she was the kind of person if someone need help, she was always there.”
Wojtach said Stolz helped resource parents not only in education, but in life, taking children in to give resource parents a break from a struggling youth. She said that in her work with children and resource parents, her incredible skills were mostly learned through experience and that she never said no in responding to resource parents’ or youths’ needs.
“She was just a tremendous individual,” said Wojtach. “She did so much and everybody, even the resource parents, are saying there is nobody of that caliber who has the skills, knowledge and willingness to step in for other people, to help other people. She is somebody who laid down her life for the kids and that was her focus.”
Wojtach said Stolz believed that if she could help the caregivers to hang in there with these kids, she could help the kids. “Kids in foster care get moved from place to place and it is trauma on top of trauma. Giving those kids a chance to grow was what Debbie was all about,” she said.
Wojtach said in order to be approved for fostering, resource parents, even relatives, are required to have initial education and are required to have at least eight hours of continuing education every year. The college’s program meets these educational requirements.
“She was one of the main trainers. We have a group of foster care trainers as well as administrative staff that we call our team. Debbie was an integral part of that,” said Wojtach. “Debbie taught preapproval training, post approval and specialty classes. She was very well versed in attachment and how trauma impacts children and teens. Debbie had a passion for helping people understand how infants are impacted by the traumas they experience.”
Wojtach said Stolz’s passion for teens was just as essential. The program provides resource parent support groups, and Stolz led the support group along with many others.
“Often in foster care systems, teens get a bad rap,” said Wojtach. “Parents are concerned about raising a teen that they haven’t grown up with. Debbie ran the support group to help the parents and ask other people to step up and be willing to take care of teens. She did that herself. She was an active resource parent. She just wasn’t doing training and mentoring, she was actively a foster parent for children.”