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"The foster care system taught me perseverance, resilience and strength. The system taught me that no matter what; I could do it, I could make it! With everything that happened to me, beyond what I've shared, I've stayed standing, working and taking care of myself with minimum support."

Sophia Williams-Baugh shares #HerStory for #SpeakUp:

"My most challenging experience in foster care was not being treated as an equal. There was only one foster home out of 7 where I was treated fairly. My birthdays were either under-celebrated, if acknowledged. Random gifts were passed out to bio kids in front of me, as I sit and looked on. Another challenge was the uncertainty of whether or not I was good enough. I could never settle or be happy because I was made to feel as if I was weird; I didn't fit in in the homes or school. I grew up an outcast all the way around. I was never able to find myself, for fear of being myself would get me teased, or frowned upon. I was in foster care from 2-6 and sexually molested by the older foster boys in the home. I was actually adopted from 6-13 and physically abused the entire 7 years. Once the adoption broke and I went back in from 13-18, I was sexually assaulted by the foster brother and his cousin at 14. I didn't tell my foster mom because she always called me fast (based on what she'd read in reports about my early childhood foster home; I was still a virgin and never kissed a boy. From being kicked out of there I bounced around going into 4 other homes (one was a respite for 2 weeks) and group homes, until I aged out at 18.

What I needed most was a network of support. What I needed most when aging out, was to know I had a family. I wish that I had someone to call or go to for my hard times, celebratory moments and sad times. I had no one to turn to for anything. I cried and voiced my fears, concerns, and heartbreak to my journals. I wish I would have had true love and comfort when I aged out to be by my side which is why I founded Family For Us Too!

The foster care system taught me to fend for myself because I can never depend on anyone else! I am a published author, nonprofit founder and hardworking married mother of 4 children. I graduated HS with a 3.8, attended college off and on and have managed to survive majority (married 3 years ago) of my 12 years since aging out on my own with no support system, the system failed me, but I refused to let them turn me into a failure!

My biggest piece of advice is never let your past determine your future for the worse! What we went through as children was out of our hands. As adults, we have the option and power to control our present for the best future life can offer us. Let the pain and anger stimulate you to make a change, not dwell in bitterness. Don't allow whatever is going on now; keep you from trying and persevering through whatever else might come your way. Long stories short, DO NOT give up on yourself because someone else gave up on you! You are worth it and you are destined for more than what's happening in the present. Everything in life is temporary and all things, good and bad, will pass! Don't let a temporary setback destroy your entire future, by responding with behavior that can destroy you with irreversible consequences. This temporary part of your life is only the beginning of your lifetime."

Foster Nation