Amanda and Rozy Newell’s lives started with the heartbreak that is all too common for kids who enter foster care. However, their story is an example of what can happen when children in state care get the help they need. Both girls were featured in a column from The Dallas Morning News:
By the time she turned 10, Amanda had lived in 11 different states. She had never finished an entire grade in the same school. Her mother worked sporadically in strip joints; her father was a violent bully whose idea of punishment was to kill his children’s pets or force them into fistfights with other kids.
“We were hungry a lot,” Amanda said flatly. “We panhandled a lot.”
Amanda and Rozy were placed in foster care where they were lucky enough to be kept together and get the help they needed:
While in foster care, they had the support of a Court-Appointed Special Advocate [CASA], a volunteer trained to represent their interests in the court system.
In 2001, the girls stood in a Dallas County courtroom to be formally adopted.
They were adopted by Pam Newell and her late husband, who became the loving, responsible parents the girls needed. Friends of the Newells warned against adopting older foster children–a common misconception of older foster children is that they are too “damaged” to be adopted. However, neither the Newells or Amanda and Rozy were fazed:
“I know we’re supposed to be living on the street or getting pregnant at 15,” Rozy said, rolling her eyes at the tearjerker cliches.
Not these kids: “Both girls came into our lives being so generous, so giving, and now they’re beautiful women,” Newell said.
With the help of their adoptive family, Rozy has gone on to earn her master’s degree in speech therapy while Amanda recently graduated from the University of North Texas with a degree in psychology, development and family studies and plans on going to graduate school to become a clinical counselor for teenagers and children.
In the meantime, Amanda is volunteering in the CASA program to help other children going through the same challenges she once faced:
Amanda said that as a CASA volunteer, she’ll have an overriding message for any child she’s assigned to represent: She’s on their side.
“You can have a bad childhood and still be happy,” she said. “There’s always hope.”