MIAMI – Takira Brown’s childhood was traumatic. Her father wasn’t there. Her mother struggled as an addict. Her grandmother was the victim of abuse. The Florida Department of Children and Families separated her from her siblings.
She was 16 years old when she ran away with her two little brothers and two little sisters. She said it was easy. The DCF caseworker was distracted. And it wouldn’t be the last time. As she moved from home to home, she said they often didn’t keep accurate records of her healthcare.
She still remembers the nightmarish woman who was supposed to be her foster mother but instead was her abuser. She said the woman didn’t send her to school and often said she was an animal who did not deserve to eat at the dining table.
“She was racist, Miss. She really didn’t like us because we were black. She said we didn’t belong with her and wanted us out of her house,” said Brown, who is now 21 years old.
Brown said the most painful part of being in “the system” was losing her brother. He was under the care of DCF when he ended up in a car with a driver who crashed while trying to get away from the police. He was 14. This year she is honoring his memory with a school supplies drive to benefit children in foster care.
“He didn’t get to stay in school. He didn’t have parents to buy him a backpack and care for him and his education,” Brown said. “I want to do what I can, so other children in foster care don’t have to feel embarrassed because they don’t have what they need.”
Brown, now a Miami-Dade College student, dreams of becoming an entrepreneur, and while undergoing therapy to take care of her mental health, she founded Strong Survivors, a nonprofit organization.
“A new backpack helps a child feel that normalcy at school when the last thing you want your peers to see you is as the kid in foster care,” Brown said. “Small acts of kindness and pulling resources when no one else would is why I started Strong Survivors.”
Brown is asking anyone who is interested in donating backpacks and school supplies for foster children to mail them by Aug. 10. The donation distribution event is Aug. 15 and she needs hundreds more.
Brown is asking donors to send their donations to Chad Mason, MK Law PA at 633 SE 3rd Ave., Suite 4 F, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301. For more information about how to contribute to Strong Survivors, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.