By Guest Blogger Angel Putnam

You might remember from last September our Mom on the Move feature of Angel Putnam. Her short profile alluded to a tough upbringing and a childhood spent in foster care. I was intrigued by the little bit she shared and asked if she would be willing to blog about her experiences. Although stories like hers are tough to share, I know that they always affect someone else in a positive way and also help us learn from one another. When she sent me her story, I was moved to tears. Most of us would never suspect that someone like Angel, a successful mom and business owner, had endured the life she was dealt. For those whose childhood was the opposite of Angel’s, her story can be staggering and difficult to comprehend. It truly makes you (as a mother and as a daughter) stop and reflect on what it means to be thankful in our lives. As you read Angel’s story, I also hope it also gives you pause. – Katie

“Sometimes life comes out of nowhere and sucker punches you right in the gut. It may take you down. But stand up, dust yourself off and put your smile back on your face because I promise you…it’s not stronger than you.”

When a child is born into the world, most would think of a loving couple beginning an incredible journey of parenthood.  However, that was stripped from me before I was ever born.  My birth mother was a young teen mom, and my birth father could be a number of different men. There was no incredible journey … just a story of a little girl who learned to find her way.

There were many years of physical, mental and sexual abuse in my childhood that led to me living in and out of foster homes, group homes and even on the street. Being born to a young teen mom who grew up in poverty herself meant that my birth mother followed in that same way of life.  She did whatever she needed for money and to feel “loved.”  I can remember the partying, the drinking and the drugs she would do from a very young age.

I was first placed in foster care at the age of 2 when my middle sister was born with so many drugs in her system that they automatically placed her up for adoption. They had no evidence of abuse for me, though, and my mother was awarded custody of me again.

When I about 3 or 4, I remember my mother was holding me at a party. She was drunk along with everyone else. She was high-fiving another young girl there and the girl’s boyfriend thought she had slapped her. As she was holding me on her hip, he punched her in the face. We fell back and she hit her head on the coffee table.  As I stood up crying because she was knocked out, they all just laughed and went on with their partying. This was just one of many similar instances I endured as a young child.

In 5th grade, I remember my step dad getting released from prison and showing up at our doorstep. He didn’t know my mother had gotten pregnant by another man and had a baby while he was gone. He beat her beyond words, stabbed me in the chest, and punched my 9 month old baby sister in the mouth. I showed up to my friend’s house across the street with my baby sister. Both of us were covered in blood.

Once again, I would get taken away, my birth mother would do the classes and steps required to get me back, only for me to go back to foster care again because of the abuse.

In the foster homes, I always felt like the black sheep or a paycheck to the people who had multiple kids beyond their means. If you were on medication for depression or had any ADHD symptoms, you were considered “special needs” and the foster family would be rewarded more money to child care. Many times, these foster parents would make up lies to get that “bonus.” When I stood up to them, they would call the agency and say I was out of control because I wouldn’t take their unnecessary prescriptions. So, from home to home, with only a black trash bag with a few items only was all I knew. I had no bed, no pillow, and no room of my own. These homes made me even more numb.

This was my routine until I finally moved out and took control of my own life.

However, the abuse I endured had fueled a deep anger and hate inside of me that I held on to for years. As a teenager, not only did I get lost along my path, but I also found myself as well. At first I was very angry and the only way I knew to express myself was through violence because I was never taught to use my words or to even care. I was a very lost and sad young lady.

During my junior year of high school, a judge ordered me to take Independent Living classes. These classes were supposed to teach me how to become an adult who could care for myself responsibly. I had gone through two instructors who ran off because of my untrusting and nasty hatred.

I shut many people out of my life even if they were trying to help because I lost my trust and faith in everything.

Then, Rachel was assigned to me. The first thing she did was take me to the altar at her church. She prayed for me, held me, and asked God to grant me peace and love. She broke my wall down instantly. That was the first time I felt someone selflessly care for me without a paycheck involved. She cried with me, and a lasting friendship to this day was born. This was my turning point. I knew I wanted more than the hatred and anger that my heart held. I wanted to be bigger than what my childhood taught me.

Yet, it took a lot of time for me to figure out how to switch that anger and hate into drive, inspiration, and a passion to be everything as a person, woman and mother I never had.  I used it to push myself further, into a hunger to keep digging deeper.  As I began seeing that I truly was in control of my own life and my outcome, it only made me more determined.

So many times when children grows up in multiple foster homes, they get lost in the cracks. They end up on the same life path that their parents lived. I knew I did not want to end up in that vicious cycle. I was determined to break the cycle. I wasn’t able to openly talk about my childhood for a long time as I couldn’t get but a couple words out without breaking.  But now, I am able to speak to others about my hardships with the hope that they can use my experience to get through theirs, to find hope and faith in my darkness.

As I have gotten older and had my own children, I strive to be the mom I never had and every child deserves.  I knew I wanted to make the world a better place in every way I could for every child.  That is what inspired me to open and operate a Pigtails & Crewcuts.  Every single day, it is my goal to make sure each child who walks through my door experiences pure joy, endless love and a genuine warmth.

The journey is what makes us strong enough to turn our life around, and you can only hope you are strong enough to get through it. Just believe honestly whether you want to believe in yourself, in your God or in a friend…you have to build a belief you can achieve. I always had to remember I was NOT a reflection of those who didn’t or couldn’t love me.

I have been broken, I have known hardship, and I have lost myself in the path. But here I stand, still moving forward and growing stronger each day. I will never forget the harsh lessons in my life that have made me who I am, and I am so very thankful for them.

*Triad Moms on Main knows that not every foster child’s situation is like Angel’s. We recognize there are many loving foster families in our community, and we applaud and support those who help make the foster system stronger for our children here in the Triad and around the world. To see more blogs like this on Triad Moms on Main, click HERE to join our newsletter subscriber list.