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From Survivor to Conqueror: A Former Foster Kid’s Journey to Healing

Cardinal Innovations Healthcare — April 28, 2021 — 4 min read
LeeAnn Evans’ passion for helping children is palpable. Her laughter is contagious. Joy and light beam from her so naturally—like she was born with a smile on her face. It’s hard to imagine that she lived in the foster care system for 13 years.

For the first half of her life, LeeAnn experienced rejection: from others and toward herself. But after decades of darkness, she found the healing she was looking for. Read or watch her story below.

Content warning: This story contains mentions of sexual abuse and trauma, which may be upsetting to some readers.


The Family Secret

LeeAnn’s trauma began before she was born.

To those on the outside, LeeAnn was a twin. She lived with her mother, father and siblings, including a half-sister from her mother’s previous marriage.

But this family tree was a lie. LeeAnn didn’t have a twin. In fact, her half-sister wasn’t her sister at all—she was her mother.

“I was a product of rape,” LeeAnn said. Her biological father sexually abused his teenage stepdaughter, resulting in a pregnancy. LeeAnn’s “mother” was, in truth, her grandmother. LeeAnn’s “twin” was her real half-sister, born within a few months of herself. The two girls were raised as twins to avoid suspicion.

“I didn’t even have a birthday. I was an extension of my half-sister,” she explained.

At first, her family stoked a fire of competition between the “twins.” Her half-sister was the favorite, while LeeAnn was all but erased through physical and emotional abuse.

But then things changed when her biological mother left home for the military. The physical and emotional abuse continued. The sexual abuse began.

LeeAnn was three years old.
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Call **ASK (star-star-2-7-5) from your cell phone or 1-800-939-5911.

13 Years in Foster Care

At age five, LeeAnn and her half-sister were finally placed into foster care. However, the years of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse left deep wounds.

“Love, to me, was very conditional. It was something I didn’t want. Because those who said they loved you—the next day you’re moving out of their home,” she said.

The two lived in 13 different homes in their first three years in foster care. At eight years old, they were separated. LeeAnn’s half-sister was placed in a therapeutic foster home.

“For ‘good behavior,’ I was put in a children’s home,” LeeAnn explained. “At the time, I just said, ‘This is the way life is supposed to be. I’m not supposed to have family.’”

One Social Worker Changed Everything

LeeAnn did well academically. One afternoon, when LeeAnn was in third grade, her social worker picked her up from school. LeeAnn had to share her report card.

“I was so nervous, because my conduct grade was like a ‘D,’” LeeAnn said. But her social worker reacted differently than she expected. She saw her good grades and asked LeeAnn if she was going to go to college.

LeeAnn paused. “I thought college was something you watched on TV… I never thought that was an option for me. I remember that day that seed was planted. It made me say: ‘I’m going to college. I’m going to be more.’”

And LeeAnn was the first foster child in her county to attend college.
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Using Her Past to Help Others

Now LeeAnn is a statewide foster care training manager for a private placement agency. She helps place kids in foster homes. She also trains parents and foster parents to help their children heal from trauma.

Many foster parents who attend her training experienced trauma themselves. LeeAnn often shares her story to inspire courage and healing in others.

“I love that foster parents can connect to the same type of healing,” LeeAnn said. “This goes to show that it’s more than just for our children. Prevention of child abuse starts with us—giving ourselves permission to heal.”

A Message to Her Younger Self

“I thought rejection was my name, so I rejected myself,” LeeAnn said. “But with the things I’ve learned and taught—I practice going back and telling my younger selves: ‘I love you.’”

She’s Not a Survivor

LeeAnn’s light shines brighter than most. The darkness she endured didn’t erase her compassion. Instead, it pushed her to become an agent for good.

“I lived most of my life as a survivor. But I’m more than a survivor,” LeeAnn said. “I’m a conqueror.”
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