Exploring heritage post foster care

As we honor International Women's Month, we hear from an engaging young woman exploring her heritage. Chyenne Roan-Santini made a trek to Puerto Rico, where her father grew up. She is a 28-year-old who experienced foster care and only re-connected with her father in her 20s.

Roan-Santini traveled solo and documented the trip along the way.

One of her favorite experiences was learning Bomba dance. Per the Smithsonian, "Bomba dates back to the early European colonial period in Puerto Rico. It comes out of the musical traditions brought by enslaved Africans in the 17th century." 

She hopes to return to Puerto Rico one day with her father. She says he has a brother still there.

Back in Los Angeles, Roan-Santini says she and her sister had been searching for their father after losing touch with him for about 10 years. She found him on Facebook. She has spoken to FOX 11 in the past about her mother who she says is unhoused, struggling with mental illness. Her whereabouts are unknown.

Asked what her father thinks of her having been in foster care? She says he is grateful to her foster mother and those who stepped up when the family needed help.

Roan-Santini is active with the non-profit A Sense of Home, which does home creations, helping foster youth with their first apartment. "I love it, I love it" she professed when opening the door to her own place, fully decorated by loving volunteers. Now she returns the gift, helping other former foster youth into their first homes.

She describes herself as an activist. She has also seen success as a model, landing national commercials for companies like Starbucks, Dr. Pepper, and Urban Outfitters. She has a picture of her father standing next to one of her print ads. 

RELATED: LA girl goes from foster care to fashion model

Perhaps her most meaningful photos to date are those on the sandy beach of Puerto Rico. Follow her on Instagram @Chy_mellow

Author's note: Roan-Santini has appeared on FOX 11 News a number of times on foster care matters. We connected on the issue of finding our fathers, as I too traveled to explore my heritage. My trip took me to Brazil, where I met my father for the first time. As I am slowly sharing the story, I am hearing from so many people who have family discovery stories of their own. Coincidentally, she was going to Puerto Rico around the same time I was going to Brazil. We compared a few notes and I just knew her story would be an inspiration to others. While I never experienced foster care, my mother chose to have me as a single woman. Much like Chy, my heritage on my father's side has alluded me. Obviously, learning about one's history and heritage touches so many, made evident by the popularity of sites like 23 & Me and Ancestry.com.