Less than half of Los Angeles County's foster youth graduate from high school — and fewer still graduate from college. But those numbers are meaningless to Bianca, Madison, Tiffany, and Paris Lucci, who've been in the system since they were 11.
"People definitely look down on us and think you're not going to make it out of college and stuff - we're going to end up in jail, we're going to end up homeless," said Bianca Lucci, the fraternal sister amongst the quadruplets. "But I believe that's not true. As long as you have determination and you work hard in school, you'll achieve your goals."
The quadruplets are among 175 high-achieving foster children who were honored with scholarships at an event at the Walt Disney Concert Hall Thursday.
They entered the foster care system after abuse and abandonment.
Madison Lucci remembers the exact moment — on Christmas Eve — when the police showed up to take the girls from their home, where they had been left alone.
"Christmas is supposed to be when you're with your family," she said. But that day, the sisters were split up and spent the next few years in and out of foster homes and group homes. In 2011, they all finally settled in Rancho Palos Verdes, where they all graduated from high school this month.
Three are headed to Long Beach City College. Bianca Lucci is headed to Humboldt State University and hopes to study criminal justice and become an FBI agent.
Department of Children and Family Services Spokesman Armand Montiel said assessing graduation rates for foster children can be difficult. Many children are reunified with family or adopted while still in school, and might not be counted in the graduation rate for foster children. Some who go on to receive a GED wouldn't be counted either. He said his agency believes if you added those in, the graduation rate is likely 60-70 percent.
"Not that those are stellar numbers," he said, but they reflect more than anything, the instability of these children's lives.
The teens who received scholarships show how resilient kids who touch the child welfare system are.
"Those youth did not overcome foster care, they overcame the absence of a parent who would sit with them every day after school and ask 'how was your day and what did you learn?' " he said.
Though they can come close, he said, "even the best foster parent can’t replace what has been lost."