I spent four years in foster care and through those years, I knew that there was a need for more foster homes in Oregon. I remember call after call to my foster mother asking her to take in a new child. Thanks to the open heart of one woman, my life was forever changed for the better and I was able to grow into a better and stronger person in spite of all the struggle in my life.

After years of neglect, physical and emotional abuse from my parents, at age 14 I turned my father in for sexually abusing me, to protect two little sisters. The day I turned him in was when I knew my life would never be the same.

I was placed with Jean, my foster mother, within a few hours of coming forward about the abuse. I didn’t have anything but the clothes on my back and a small bag my stepmother packed for me as she and my father were telling the caseworker that I was no longer welcome in their home. Jean picked me up from DHS and I remember being terrified because she looked mean and everything that I had learned about foster homes prior to that day was horrible.

Jean took me to her home and immediately introduced me to her family. I was in a state of shock because of how kind and welcoming her family was. They treated me in a way that I had never experienced before. The day was a new beginning as well as an ending to a horrible nightmare.

Jean and her family gave me more than a place to live and food. They showed me that a family sticks by you no matter what you do. I learned that it was okay to be safe and to make mistakes. They showed me that as horrible as the start of my life was, I was not my past. I could take my history and use it to become a better person. They taught me that what happened was not “normal” and that none of it was my fault.

 Jean showed me that I deserved to be happy and to feel loved and supported. By her example, I know what it means to a great parent.

My father’s case ended up going to trial and I testified before a jury about the abuse I experienced. Jean was by my side the whole time. When the verdict came back guilty, she held me as I cried and then again when I was told I was never seeing my family again. She was there when I walked across the stage for graduation with a 3.98 GPA despite all I had been through.

Because of one person opening their heart and home, I succeeded in life and became a survivor. I will be the first to admit with a lot of regret that I did not always treat Jean the best, but she always forgave me. She somehow understood that not all of my anger was aimed at her, but at the circumstances of my life at the time. She showed me what it meant to be able to feel completely safe to express my emotions.

All it takes is one person to change a child’s view of the world. Children going into foster care are not broken, they just need someone to show them that they matter and they deserve to be loved and happy. Foster care changed my life and took away the view that the world is a dark place and that no one cared about me.

When you open your home to be a foster parent, you are not just taking a child out of a bad living situation. You are showing them that there is good in the world and you are giving them hope for a better day. One act of kindness can change a child for years to come. If you only hold their hand for a day, know that you have changed them for the rest of their lives.

Kasandra Delepierre went into foster care in 2001 and left in 2007.