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Face of a Foster Care Graduate – Donna Maddox

justin brotton - Friday, May 01, 2015

By JC Flamini

”fosterHmmm, where to Start? I just want you to know that the real meaning behind this is NOT about ME! It is to encourage YOU! I have been where you are, if you currently are in the foster care system, or where you have been if you have aged out of the system. You do not have to be a victim of your circumstances. I thought and believed that for a long time and it didn’t get me anywhere. I used to feel sorry for myself, and wondered why me? Why can’t I have a “normal” family? Then one day something powerful hit me and I started to think differently. I came across this quote that I love (author unknown).

“ Life is like photography, we develop from our negatives”

I started to apply that thought process to my life and wow, how it helped! Instead of feeling sorry for myself I started to be thankful even in the bad stuff!

I was born to an alcoholic and drug addicted mother and so my life was very unstable! I was in and out of foster care from the age of 5 until I aged out at 18. I saw things that most people would have only seen on television. One night, my biological mom was so drunk that she took an empty wine bottle and smashed it over my Aunts head! She would leave me alone and in charge of my younger siblings from the age of 5 while she went out to get her fixes. I was teased relentlessly from other kids for the clothes that I wore, but the truth is I was lucky to have any clothes at all since my mom spent all of our money on her fixes. Instead of buying us the things we needed, she would take us to the store and tell us to stuff clothes down our shirts saying that this way she would not get in trouble for shoplifting. We would go through the same routine with food, having to steal it because she sold her food stamps for drug money. Most kids do not have to wonder about how to get clothes to wear, food in their stomach, or if their parent is coming home, which was all in a typical day for me. To this day, drugs are still my biological mom’s first priority. I remember one time when she was getting ready to go out to the bar and my baby brother was crying. She was angry and took the iron and ironed his whole arm up. He ended up with 3rd degree burns. Episodes like that were not unusual, she was crazy while on drugs and angry while off them. I had to be a protector for my younger siblings, even though I was only in Elementary school myself. Our life with her was very much like walking on eggshells all the time.

In some ways I, being an adult now am thankful that I did see that stuff. I really believe that seeing those things prevented me from following the same destructive path! Those things scared me! Maybe had I not seen the destructive behavior I would have followed the same destructive path that many of my family had been on. I can proudly say that I am in my 40’s now and I have never touched an illegal drug in my life, nor am I an alcoholic. I have come a long way from the days of being in the projects and labeled as a troubled kid. I just want to encourage you that you also can “remove” the labels that you have been given and change all your negative circumstance and have them become positive ones. I am thankful that I can encourage others to know that we can be productive members of society. I have never been in trouble with the law. I have my own business. I have kids that are doing well and have not been in the system! Kids, that are loving and caring, and compassionate people. Kids that have been on the honor roll, have been inducted into the national honor society, and kids that have skipped a grade. Not typical of what society would have thought since I was a “foster” kid. I volunteer time at the schools and at church and have done many things to help with the military, (not just because I am a military spouse) I am thankful that I can give back to the community.

I believe that there are several things that led me to where I am today, first of all I had had a few amazing people in my life that were kind to me and looked past the “label”. I know that many didn’t understand the full extent of my situation because I kept what I could to myself. Of course, what I was unable to hide, they saw as when we had to change out in gym many saw the bruises up and down my back. The why of it all, was not spoken of back then. Now I can share the reason, which was because I wouldn’t smoke pot with my adoptive Dad’s new wife! Most parents would be grateful and praise their kids choosing not to engage in that behavior. I knew the destruction that life style had lead too. I was removed from the situation and my foster care journey began again, this time it was different, I had my high school Guidance counselor in my corner! She reached out to me and wanted me! She had asked my social worker if she could have custody of me! He said no, but that didn’t stop her, she then went to court and asked for custody of me .The Judge granted custody to her. There I finally found love, care and concern! She helped me realize that it wasn’t my fault! I did well while I was staying there, but she was not a certified foster home so my time with her there was short. Over the next four years I went around to numerous foster homes until I reached my 18th birthday, where I then was out on my own in this BIG World, I hadn’t even graduated high school yet, I was even told that I may not get to graduate, I was Like heck! I had not come that far not to get my diploma. My biological Mom had only had an 8th Grade education. I saw how she was on welfare and we lived in the projects and I was not going to follow any of that destructive cycle.

I look back at where I came from and the odds and statistics I have overcome and a lot of that is all because of the decisions and choices I did make. As a child we were innocent victims, but as adults we control our destiny. We can either choose to allow the past to rob us or embrace the obstacles that we have overcome and make those negative things positive. I know that many may judge and I want to tell you to stay far away from those people. Find people that are caring people who accept you for who you are! I was fortunate to have people in Elementary and Jr. High like that who saw beyond my circumstances and were true friends.

Recently on Facebook, I found some of them and it amazed me to hear, “You are the way I remember you! So filled with love”. Many said that they didn’t know what a hard life I had. I didn’t want them to feel sorry for me! I didn’t want to be judged for things that I had no control over! If I can overcome all the adversity that I did you certainly can! Good Luck to you and God Bless!

Feel free to contact me via email declutterbuddy@aol.com. There are wonderful sites like this FosterCareInAmerica.com that offers some great resources and others for you to reach out! Don’t let statistics scare you! You can beat them! I truly believe that you can come from one of the best families and become a “mess” or you can come like me from one of the most messed up families and be a success. It is really up to you what you do with your life, if you make better choices you can lead a fulfilled life. It is all up to you and what path you get on!

There were many people that helped me and have shown me unconditional love and acceptance; Grandpa John and Grandma Toni who love me and my children, without hesitation and I am forever grateful that I am blessed to be part of their family.

To my many friends, you are more like my family. I love you with all my heart and am thankful that I have you in my life as well. To my Children, you have been a huge blessing in my life and I am thankful for each and every one of you!

Face of a Foster Care Graduate – Opal Morland

justin brotton - Friday, May 01, 2015

By JC Flamini

Dare to Dream
I am a graduate. Oh you may think that I am telling of high school or college but I am referring to my time as a foster youth seven to


 10 years old. My time in the foster care system lasted about three years. I was afraid, ashamed, and never spoke about it to others. I didn’t want to hear whispers, be pitied, or tell others that my family was not functional.
I have decided to share my story because so many perceive foster kids as trouble with a capital T! Today, I am a successful wife, mom, grandmother and hula teacher. Hula teaching is my love and I share it to help bring awareness to needy kids and families.
I always wondered why God let this happen to me. I mean being a foster kid. Well I now believe I was given a gift and I have been in training my entire life so that I could help and inspire others. Not just foster youth but foster parents our community and anyone interested in helping kids. You see I have had a dream since seven years old to be a mom. I always knew that I would marry a wonderful man with dark hair and blue eyes; of course I didn’t know he would be bald now. I am just teasing because he is the first to laugh when I joke about him.
Our children include biological and foster/adopt children. I tell this because I want everyone to know that even though I did not conceive some of my children they are all our kids. We love them equally and I want society and most importantly our children themselves to know there is no shame in where they come from. As a parent I want them to be all that they can be and to follow their dreams. Most importantly, I want our children to respect and love who they are and what they can be. I want them to be able to share without fear of being condemned or ridiculed over something they had no control over.
I as a foster child was first afraid the day we were taken into custody. Nothing was explained to me and the fear of the unknown can make you go inside yourself. Next, I was fearful that kids in school would find out and I would not be accepted. But I was mostly fearful because I was the eldest of three siblings and I thought we were not going to be together. That is exactly what happened. When we were first taken into custody I didn’t know they put the boys in a separate area. I was going crazy not knowing where my little brother was and my sister was in a different section because of her young age. They did let my sister stay with me because she would not quit crying but I still did not know where our brother was. I finally found out recently, 40 years later, that he was having an adventure because he was with boys and not with his silly sisters!
Besides my family, one of my most proud accomplishments is my hula class. These are young men, women, kids and seniors helping to bring awareness to foster kids and families. Together we are a team helping others. It is such a joy for me to be able to teach my students the love of hula dance and love of others. I am so blessed with students who want to give back to our community. These past five years we have danced for cancer, abused children, the homeless shelter, made blankets for the Linus project, and brought joy to our seniors living in skilled living facilities. One of my most fond memories was sharing hula with young women held in custody at a Sheriffs detention center. We were very moved and proud that we could expose these young women to something they had never seen before. It was reported back to us that the Sheriffs detention center did not have any trouble with these young people for weeks after. I believe we only do what we know or have been shown to do. One of my own dancers told me after the performance that she was on the same path and that when she joined us it changed her life and lifestyle. I am very proud to have made a difference in her life.
Recently, my hula students came up with the idea to host a Summer Luau Event to raise funds for foster children. We are working together with our community to help make life a little better for foster kids, adopted kids, kinship families and groups that support needy kids and families. Our class is making a difference and I am very proud of how far we have come.
I guess I was inspired by God. I truly believe in the Almighty and trust that he has given me direction and that I am in the place I am supposed to be. While I was a foster child I felt abandoned but we were lucky to get a loving Christian foster family. I never really knew God until I went to church and got saved. I felt reborn and new. I was too young then to know His power but if you believe and trust with all your heart miracles can happen.
Sometimes terrible things happen to us in life. But we do not have to be consumed by them. Every one of us has the right to choose who we are and what we will become. We are not perfect and will make mistakes. The trick is to forgive ourselves and others so that we can move on. Life is not perfect but we can overcome all and be a better person. Let’s teach the world that a foster child is a gift and a graduate of unforeseen circumstances and that with the help, support and love of our community we can improve our lives and the lives of others. We are just people all shapes, ages, colors and sizes and each of us are unique with a special gift to offer.
I would like to end with a promise that you are in charge of who and what you become. Believe in yourself even when you think no one else does. Don’t be afraid to dream your dream no matter how big or small. Just go for it! We can be anything and we are only limited by our own imaginations…

Opal Morland

preferred shelters


PO Box 57150
OKC, OK 73157
Tel (405) 286-2050

distinctly Oklahoma

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