Music has always been very influential in my life. That being said, I am not musically talented in any way. Believe me when I tell you that I was most certainly not blessed with the ability to sing, read music, or play an instrument of any kind. Despite the fact that musical ability is not one of my gifts, it has remained impactful over the years.
While doing a podcast, I was talking with a mentor and friend and we both got a good laugh as we discussed some very memorable and catchy theme songs, such as the song from “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air." Some theme songs have lyrics that will stick in your head for days after hearing them. As we continued talking, we mutually came to the conclusion that, as individuals, we each have a “theme song” for our own life.
By no fault of my own, I was born into a family filled with extreme dysfunction. My earliest years were filled with domestic violence, extreme neglect, and sexual abuse. I truly struggle to find the words to adequately describe the daily pain and suffering that I endured. I was hurt in every way imaginable - both physically and emotionally. My theme song was one of FEAR.
I feared for my safety.
I feared that I would starve.
I feared that I could not protect my younger brother.
I feared that the pain would never end.
I feared that I would never have anyone to love me.
After a few traumatic years with those who gave birth to me, I was taken into the foster care system. I spent my early childhood traveling from one foster home to another. I traveled through five different homes and five different schools. My theme song of fear amplified as I cried myself to sleep each night, fearing that I would never have a family to call my own. Fear was the theme that dominated my existence. Although my foster placements were not exactly ideal, I was introduced to God very early on and was able to cling to the hope that He had a plan for my life. I was young, but I kept hearing about this God who loved me no matter what.
I was given a dog tag with Jeremiah 29:11 engraved on the front.
There were many times in my early years that I began to doubt that I would ever have a family of my own, but I pressed into God and prayed as I repeated Jeremiah 29:11 as a reminder that He was in control, despite the fact that my theme song of fear resonated loudly. For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
That verse is still my favorite and served as a constant reminder that God was in control despite the fact that my world was filled with uncontrollable chaos and uncertainty. My only hope was found in God as I prayed each night that I would somehow find a family to love me and keep me safe.
By the grace of God, my life that had been consumed by fear and uncertainty, changed in 2010. My prayers were answered, and my younger brother and I were adopted by two amazing people who are now my Mom and Dad in every sense of the word.
I wish I could say that the second I walked through the door that everything changed. The truth is, early trauma changes who you are, and you can either let it take you or decide to fight and I was determined to fight. I was not going to allow my traumatic start to define my future.
Facing my trauma was the most difficult experience of my life. I was blessed to be in a home with adoptive parents who had an extensive understanding of trauma. They surrounded me with the needed supports and understood that I had experienced brain changes as a result of my early experiences. This understanding, paired with their unconditional love, along with being shown the true healing that can be found in God delivered me to true healing.
It took significant time, but my theme song slowly began to change. My new theme song became one of hope.
I was blessed to find a forever family who never once wavered in their unconditional love and support as they walked my healing journey by my side. Since they understood how to parent a child who had experienced trauma, they cried with me as I mourned the loss of my siblings, held me as I exposed details of my sexual abuse, and allowed me to mourn the loss of my childhood. They walked my healing journey by my side.
Over time, my self-esteem was restored, and I began to realize that God had a purpose for my life. Although I am only 20, I have been able to heal from my trauma and I am now able to use my experiences to give back to children and families. I am honored to share my story openly through public speaking, podcasting mentoring, and I was also blessed enough to publish my autobiography at the age of 14. I do not share these facts to boast in any way, but to share hope that true healing can occur.
As I now reach out to help others heal, I look back on my own personal journey to examine how I was able to heal. Trauma-informed care is absolutely vital. We must step up and ensure that trauma education is available to all caregivers working with children from hard places. Kinship placements, foster placements, and adoptive placements all require caregivers who have a true understanding of how to love and support those of us who have experienced trauma. We must be proactive in providing this education for all involved in order to maintain placements and avoid unnecessary disruptions and damaging moves. When families are equipped with the proper skills, strategies, and wrap-around supports, we can change the theme songs of those who are stuck in chronic states of fear and uncertainty.
I am dedicating my life to changing theme songs for children and families. My theme song was changed from one of fear to one of hope. It is critical that we can come together to properly educate caregivers on the topic of trauma and provide environments where children and youth can thrive. There are over 400,000 children waiting in the system for their theme songs to change. My prayer is that you will join me in this effort to provide others the same gift I was given - hope.