Helping America's most vulnerable.

Jelly's Story

Angelica struggled with the decision to put herself into foster care. With determination and belief in herself Angelica will be attending college in the fall. Click here to watch to Angelica’s speech.

Good Morning, my name is Angelica Brownlee, but everybody calls me Jellly, I’m 18 years old. I’m an early high school graduate; which to me is a major accomplishment, no one in my family ever graduated from high school.

I was born with meth in my system; so I was taken away from my parents. Both my parents were addicted to drugs. However, My dad was able to get me back before I turned one. My dad and I were together, but we struggled, living in motels and in homeless shelters. When I was about 2 years old my dad had finally got a stable job and met my step mother. I thought my step mom was my real mom until I was about 8 years old, my real mother came back in our life. I wanted to know her so my dad agreed to let me visit her.

This decision caused a lot of chaos in my family, my step mom and dad fought all the time and my step mother started to resent me. She mentally and verbally abused meI remember as a kid my step mom would allow her kids into her room while locking me out. I would sit by the door and ask to come in but she wouldn’t let me in. There was constant turmoil in my family.

I always felt alone like I had nobody. I was moved from different family members from the age of 12 until I was 16. For most of my childhood I felt like I was sitting on the outside, waiting to be let in.

When I was 13 my dad brought me to my birth mom’s house for what I thought was a visit, but instead he dropped me off with a credit card and said he would put money on it for me every two weeks and he left me there. Life became real for me at that moment.

My mom was still doing drugs and she was very abusive to me. I felt like we switched roles. I became the parent. I had to make sure my little brother was fed, clean and ready for school, things that she should have done as our mother.

Shortly after I turned 16, I was living with my grandmotherwho also had a drug addiction which made her love me one day and hate me the next. One day she locked me out of the house. I had finally had it with this life style I didn’t care about wanting to be loved anymore I just wanted it all to stop. I called the police on my grandma who had locked me out of the house. The police came and told her she could not kick me out and that if she did they would have to take her in because she was my guardian. He then gave me a number to a domestic violence center. I was nervous to call because I was very scared of foster care . Both my mother and step mother were in foster care and told me about what happened to them. They would tell me that if I ever told anyone about my life at home I would end up being abused in foster care worse than any abuse I had already experienced.. Needless to say, I was terrified of foster care. On top of that I was conflicted about leaving my little brother behind but I knew something had to change.

I called them the next day and they told me to pack my bags for the weekend. My heart sank when they said “the weekend”, only the weekend?…I didn’t ever want to go back. But when my parents didn’t try to get me back.  I was then turned over to CPS and put into a foster home. When nobody showed up again for me at my CPS hearing I was placed into foster care permanently.

I ended up moving 3 times my first year and then ended up at a group home. It was kind of weird. I was nervous because of what parents told me. But they were wrong. The longer I stayed the more love I felt. They were right about one thing, it was different is was like having a family for the first time.

My life really changed when I walked in to the Foster A Dream office. My group home went every Thursday to participate in their Get Set program :I didn’t really want to go. The other girls in my group home said it was fun and you get free food, So I said, “why not, I love to eat”….The first day I walked in there I could feel the love from Tamara, the Program Director. She started off excitedly talking about goal setting, which made me excited too. We did a worksheet on setting goals, and I remember reading it aloud saying “I just want to be successful” – and those words stuck with me- those words drive me now… And that’s what this program does… they have made me driven, through their passion and caring, at a time when I had almost given up. So when I’m asked “what has Foster A Dream given you,” I say “ A whole bunch of Momma’s..” Some I see out here today. And I love you guys…

Because from what I understand, that’s what moms’ do…they are there for you. I had gotten to the point in life where I just wanted to sit outside the door- I was tired of knocking and no one opening.. But this program opened the door and let me in with open arms.

Besides just giving me moral support Foster A Dream has helped me with basic needs. Things like you learn from your family like responsibility and confidence, skills like how to apply for a job, how to grocery shop or budgeting.. a lot of basic life skills that I need to live up to the high standards I have for myself.One of the biggest things is that it’s ok to make mistakes as long as you learn from them. I also learned that I’m not the only one who has had difficulties in my life, and it feels good to help others… At Winter Wonderland I saw so many childrenpicking up toys in a magical winter warehouse, and I realized I was part of something bigger than myself.

Right before my 18th birthday I got my own apartment but I was really not prepared to be on my own but this time I knew I wasn’t alone I had Tamara and Volunteers of America. They supported me through the whole transition process, from understanding all the paper work to physically helping me move my stuff multiple times. It is an amazing feeling to know you can call someone and they will actually show up and be there for you.

Although this transition to living on my own as a high school senior was hard, these past years at school have been the most rewarding. I took part in a welding course at Armijo High school, I was also in a leadershipclass and I was one of 6 leaders at my satellite program in my high school. I was in charge of H.A.M (History, Art & Media). Even though I had a few ups and downs, through it all I realized that I can do whatever I wanted if I put my mind to it. With hard work anything is possible.

I will be starting Diablo Valley community college in the fall to get my AA degree, and then transfer to a four year college after that to become a medical social worker. I decided to pursue this career because I always wanted to be in the medical field and wanted to help others. Some may say putting myself into foster care at the age of sixteen is unusual. Making this decision was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, to leave my siblings. I made this decision so I could stop the cycle of abuse I was in, and to have a better life for my future family. I want to be the one to break the cycle of not finishing school and actually going to college. Today because of Volunteers of America I’m not afraid, I’m not alone and I know that all doors are open for me.