I am often asked the question: “What was it that made the difference?” Meaning, when the failure rate for foster children is so incredibly high, how were you able to beat the odds? How do we help guide foster children to their success story?
It has been said that less than three percent of foster children become successful adults, but we don’t know the exact number for sure. Once a child has aged out of foster care, we typically have no idea what becomes of them.
I am a former foster child who lived a life of constant trauma and despair. My journey to success has been one of devastating trauma, thoughts of suicide, near mental breakdowns, and a determination to succeed at all cost. It has taken over 46 years for me to find my foster success story, but, I was determined, and I never gave up.
My life was such a mess that at 35 years old, I found myself on my knees. A few weeks later, I found a book, “The Best Question Ever,” that changed my life forever. The book, written by Andy Stanley, gave me a formula for making good decisions.
The formula the book gave for making good decisions made me reassess many things about my life, about myself, and made me come to terms with the mess I was in emotionally, mentally and physically. And thus began the remaking of Helen.
This was the first time I realized what life skills were and the enormous amounts of life skill gaps that existed in the foundation of who I was. This new revelation scared me, concerned me and made me angry. How was it that a child could become a middle aged woman with the life skills of a teenager?
First, in order to make a good decision, I had to set a goal. I remember thinking, “WOW, What an amazing concept that was.” Set a goal……..hummmm, I had never heard of this setting a goal thing, now I was wondering why not.
So, for the first time in my life, at 35 years old, I set my first goal. My goal was to make a difference in the lives of foster children. To share my story and create significant change in the way we view, treat and interact with foster children. For every foster child to feel loved, valued and wanted regardless of their life circumstances. And every decision from that day forward had to be a decision that was going to get me closer to my goal. If the decision wasn’t putting me in line with, or closer to my goal, then it wasn’t a good decision.
I don’t know how I came up with this idea, but in my mind, I would see myself as if I had already achieved my goal. I would picture myself walking around as a confident, accomplished woman. A woman who had already achieved her dream. I would allow myself to bask in the feeling of becoming ‘it’.
I could feel the smile on my face as I closed my eyes and allowed myself to get lost in the feeling one must feel once they have made it to that place of glory.
Once I saw it and felt it, I decided I had to start living it. I had to start living my life as if I had already achieved my goal. I had to position myself around people of that caliber and I had to learn to walk the part, talk the part and be the part.
I also realized I had to ‘focus forward’ every moment of my life. Every time I looked back, it seemed to draw me back into the darkness and I would have to readjust my sail. So I learned it was very important to spend every minute focusing forward.
I also learned that I had a lot of polishing to do to make this diamond in the ruff shine! It seemed next to impossible and I wondered how I was going to really get this done. But by now I had my mind set on my goal and I was determine to succeed.
So I watched people, and emulated the parts of them I wanted and needed the new me to be. The me I needed to be to reach my goal. It took 12 years.
Once I allowed myself to live it…I became it. I couldn’t believe it. No one ever told me I could do something positive and good with my life, much less truly achieve it. Once I filled all of the life skill gaps that were necessary for me to achieve my dream, I reached for the stars and I haven’t let go since, nor do I plan to.
Today, I am a foster/adoptive mother and author of “From Foster to Fabulous – One little girl’s journey through abuse, foster care, aging out and life beyond.” I am the founder and executive director of Fostering Superstars, a nonprofit for foster children. I am a Congressional Award winner as well as a Points of Light Award Honoree. I am a popular keynote speaker, trainer, and advocate for foster children.
I am still filling gaps that were never filled as a child, or foster youth, but today I am arriving and I feel really good about the path I am on.
I love sharing my story with foster youth. It’s priceless to see their beautiful faces light up when they finally allow themselves to think of the success they can truly become. It’s almost as if it’s the first time they have seen themselves, and their lives, in a positive light.
Every foster child has a success story hiding inside. They just need a little help finding it.
Helen Ramaglia is a foster alumni who became a foster/adoptive parent. She is the founder and Director of Fostering Superstars, a Congressional Award Winner for her work with foster children and is the author of “From Foster to Fabulous”. She is a popular speaker, trainer and advocate for foster children.
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