MILE­STONES Abuse sur­vivor pens book to help oth­ers

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution - - MILESTONES & ADVICE - By H.M. Cauley For the AJC

The story of He­len Ra­maglia’s life has chap­ters that are al­most too painful to hear. But the Al­pharetta res­i­dent has col­lected all the ag­o­niz­ing par­tic­u­lars in a book to keep oth­ers from ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the same trauma that char­ac­ter­ized most of her child­hood.

“By the time I was 5, I had more loss, dev­as­ta­tion and trauma than most peo­ple have in their lives,” said the South Carolina na­tive, now 50.

“I was born into a vi­o­lently abu­sive fam­ily, and by the time I was 9, I was next door to a men­tal break­down,” she said. “My mother and fa­ther had a very vi­o­lent re­la­tion­ship, and at one point I was locked up in ju­ve­nile de­ten­tion to keep my fa­ther from killing me.”

Much of Ra­maglia’s youth was spent in fos­ter care, where she was largely ig­nored by the sys­tem. At 17, she aged out of the pro­gram and was at a des­per­ate cross­roads.

“At 17, I sat with a hand­ful of sleep­ing pills, a pro­posal of mar­riage or home­less­ness in front of me,” she re­called. “I got mar­ried and fought my way for years through pur­ga­tory.”

At 35, with two chil­dren, Ra­maglia found the in­spi­ra­tion to over­come her past. Through prayer, faith and a solid sup­port net­work, she turned her life around. One of the pri­mary ob­jec­tives of her new di­rec­tion was to help other chil­dren caught in the mi­asma of the fos­ter care sys­tem.

“I made God a prom­ise that I’d write a book,” she said. “I have a mes­sage that needs to get out.”

A few weeks ago, Ra­maglia ful­filled that prom­ise with the pub­li­ca­tion of “From Fos­ter to Fab­u­lous: One Lit­tle Girl’s Jour­ney through Abuse, Fos­ter Care, Ag­ing Out and Life Be­yond.” The book doesn’t just re­count her per­sonal jour­ney; it also takes read­ers through her fight to be­come a fos­ter par­ent her­self.

Four years ago, she and her hus­band, John, adopted two toddlers, one of whom is a spe­cial-needs child, and she left a ca­reer in bank­ing to raise them.

She also cre­ated a men­tor­ing pro­gram through Kids3, a non­profit that works with ne­glected and abused chil­dren, and she spends as many as 60 hours a week speak­ing to civic and lo­cal or­ga­ni­za­tions about the need for more fos­ter re­sources in the north metro area.

“There are not many re­sources in the north At­lanta area. We need far more,” she said. “Peo­ple don’t re­al­ize how big a cri­sis there is for these chil­dren, and how we need more places that of­fer re­sources for them.”

A few weeks ago, Ra­maglia’s com­mit­ment to fos­ter chil­dren was spot­lighted in Wash­ing­ton by the Con­gres­sional Coali­tion on Adoption In­sti­tute.

“Go­ing to D.C. was the most ex­hil­a­rat­ing ex­pe­ri­ence I ever had,” she said. “I’d love to be there to fight for the rights of chil­dren. My dream is for ev­ery­one in Congress to read my book and then have a Q&A ses­sion. I think then they will truly un­der­stand what these chil­dren need.”

Copies of Ra­maglia’s book can be or­dered on her web­site, www.from fos­terto­fab­u­lous.com.

CON­TRIB­UTED

He­len Ra­maglia was nom­i­nated by Rep. Tom Price, R. Ga., and hon­ored by the Con­gres­sional Coali­tion on Adop­tion In­sti­tute for her work with fos­ter chil­dren.

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