DCF updates lawmakers after ex-foster child death

Locked in her bedroom, Kelly was bruised and hurting. Her stomach rumbled from hunger. She had come home

earlier that day with a report card full of Fs. She had been afraid to go home, because of the consequences she knew would come. The verbal and physical abuse that followed came from Allen, her mother’s boyfriend.

Kelly was just 6 years old at the time.

Despite the abuse and neglect, Kelly’s mom did not stand up for her daughter against Allen. For Kelly, the message was clear – she was unwanted, unloved and alone.

One day, while Kelly and her twin brother, Keith, were at school, a teacher discovered suspicious bruises. Questions revealed a traumatic reality of malnourishment as well as verbal, physical and sexual abuse.

A few weeks before this, Kelly had asked her mom if she and her brother would ever be taken away. After initial surprise, her mother replied, “No, why would you be taken away?” Looking back, Kelly knows now that God was preparing her for the change that was coming. The Department of Human Services stepped in and removed the children from the home.

Kelly was upset, but not surprised.

DHS kept the twins together. They had two older brothers who were placed in other foster homes. Kelly and Keith went from one foster home to another, searching for love, acceptance and a place to belong.

Kelly recalls the day they arrived at their fourth and final placement. “Walking into the Blonsky home, immediately, it was different. You could feel the love.”

She remembered a simple thing from her early days with the Blonskys. “I had never tasted orange juice, ever. I remember drinking a glass and asking for more, saying, “We get orange juice!”

The twins turned 9 right after arriving at the home of Jim and Susan Blonsky. The Blonskys already had four biological children but after several years of fostering, they legally adopted Kelly and Keith at the age of 15.

Kelly remembers those years, “My adoptive dad and mom worked tirelessly to help Keith and I with all of the issues we had. We dealt with so much rejection, anger and bitterness. Our parents were patient and loved us like their own, sacrificing so much for us. Meeting me now, you would never realize what I had gone through in my past.”

But the work went both ways. “I allowed my new family in and had to learn to forgive and to let go of hatred. I allowed them to love me. And they did,” she said.

One of the challenges that came up for Kelly was staying connected with her past. “Being an older kid coming into the DHS system, I wanted to stay connected to my bio family while embracing my new life with my adoptive family. I felt I needed to do both in order to heal but it was something I had to work through with my adoptive family.”

Finding her own identity in the midst of a new family, and apart from her past was another challenge.

Looking back, she sees things differently than her younger self. “I realize now that everything happens for a reason. People mess up and don’t do things right, but God always has plans for you. And no matter what, you will make it. I was very strong-willed and needed a strong family. God gave me that and now I know why.”

Today, Kelly is married to husband Ryan Davis, and is a mother of three. She and her family reside in Pryor. She was chosen as Mrs. Pryor 2011, and is looking forward to competing for the Mrs. Oklahoma title Dec. 3 in Guthrie.

“The reason I am doing this is to share my story. I knew I could encourage so many women and girls as a survivor,” she said.

And her platform? “I wanted to make Court Appointed Special Advocates my platform because I wished that I had an advocate for me when I was in the system years ago,” she said. “A CASA volunteer works to develop a relationship with a child in custody by becoming their voice in court. Volunteering in this way allows me to give back. Because I have been there, I know how these kids feel.”

With Oklahoma ranking fifth in the nation in the rate of child abuse and neglect deaths, there is a need for rescuers and advocates for these children. Whether choosing to help through mentoring, becoming an advocate, fostering or adopting, Kelly said, “All that children in the system need is someone with a willing heart and someone who knows how to love. That was what truly changed me.”

Stepping into the life of a child is powerful, lasting and difficult. Kelly said, “You never know what you are getting into when you take kids in, or when you volunteer. But I will say as having been a child in need, that being adopted changed my whole life and I would not be here today if it was not for my family taking me and my brother in. There were some very good times, and some very hard times but all in all it was worth it.