ESCONDIDO, Calif. (KGTV) - Dozens of teenagers are learning the place they call home is closing its doors soon.
The San Pasqual Academy is a first in the nation residential and educational setting for kids age 12-17 in foster care. For the last 20 years, the sprawling Escondido campus has provided a home and education to thousands of students.
Now, many of them are shocked to hear that it will be closing.
Natasha Strain graduated from SPA in 2005.
"If I wasn't there, I think I wouldn't be the person I am today, I can say, I'm a college graduate from Cal State San Marcos and that wouldn't happen if SPA wasn't there helping me," said Strain who currently works at SPA.
The California Department of Social Services sent SPA a letter notifying it of the decision to close. The state cites years of declining enrollment and changes to state and federal laws that require children to be placed with families rather than in group settings among the reasons.
Roughly 70 students are living at SPA right now.
"In my opinion, it shouldn't matter how many kids are there, you're still changing lives," said Strain.
Yvette Romero says SPA gave her more stability than any foster home.
"So when San Pasqual Academy came to me as an opportunity, it was an opportunity to really grow," Romero said.
Romero graduated in 2004. She recently spent time teaching and encouraging students at SPA to express themselves through writing. She was devastated to hear it will be closing.
"San Pasqual is a first of its kind, no other group home like that," said Romero.
San Diego County Chair Nathan Fletcher said the county is committed to making sure the kids find good homes.
"Our commitment to kids will never go away, but over the course of the last two decades since this wonderful facility was established, best practices have changed and federal and state laws have aligned with those best practices," said Chairman Fletcher.
Fletcher said federal, state, local money and donations cover the roughly $15 to $20 million a year it costs to run SPA. Fletcher said he'll be introducing the San Pasqual Promise.
"Which will be to take the funding that gave us these good outcomes and ensure that that commitment to support each of these kids remains as strong as ever," said Fletcher.
According to the letter from the state, SPA will close in October.