Sharing Her Secret Story of Adoption

ShelbyJenkinsIt was a secret that I kept for 20 years. I was afraid. Afraid of being judged. Afraid of being mocked.

But today, I stand tall and am proud to say that I was adopted. Once I wasn’t afraid to share my story, I found out that so many people close to me shared a connection to foster care and adoption, including my college roommate’s mother, who is a foster parent. I didn’t understand it at first, but now I know that being adopted was a blessing, a second chance at life. And I knew I had to find a way to share my story.

I was adopted at 19 months old after being in foster care since birth. My parents lived in Miami and I grew up there, where a world of opportunity opened to me. I left Florida to attend college in Kentucky. I wasn’t always a pageant girl. In fact, I didn’t enter my first pageant until I was at Kentucky State University. I saw pageants as a way to have fun and have a platform to raise awareness for foster care adoption. After that first interview on the local news, a woman reached out to me to tell me that my story touched her. She emailed, “Your story is so powerful and I know how you feel about being judged. I still haven’t told my husband that I’m adopted.”

To know that other adoptees also struggle with the idea of telling their adoption stories made me realize that I had to spread the word. Later that year I visited an all-girls adoption agency and a young girl told me she wanted to grow up to “be a star,” but didn’t know how. I told her she was already a star and that she had to keep fighting for her dreams.

After graduation I decided to move to Texas where I’m pursuing my career and still doing pageants as I work to raise awareness about foster care adoption. I’m currently serving as Miss Texas US International, traveling the world, walking red carpets and meeting dozens of children in foster care who want to travel the world, go to Disney World with their family or be a pageant queen. I want to do whatever I can to help those children have those moments.

Children in foster care want what we all want: someone who will love them, someone who will support them and help their dreams come true. Children who age out of care without a family face a steep challenge. Each year, more than 20,000 children age out of foster care and have no place to call “home.” Imagine how frightening that must be and how hard it would be to not have parents to ask for help. There are more than 110,00 children in foster care right now who are waiting to be adopted and in fact, for the first time in several years, the number of children entering foster care is going up.

That’s why there is no better time than right now for me to raise awareness about foster care adoption and the work of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, through its signature program Wendy’s Wonderful Kids, provides grants to adoption agencies across the US and Canada. Those grants allow the agencies to hire adoption recruiters who are trained by the Foundation in a child-focused recruitment model. This evidence-based model is up to three times more effective in finding permanent, loving homes for the children who have been in foster care the longest.

I encourage you to join me in spreading awareness about foster care adoption and the work of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption.

For more information on foster care adoption or to make a donation, visit davethomasfoundation.org.

Shelby Patrice Jenkins is currently serving as Miss Texas US International 2016 and 2016 Ambassador for Adoption Share. She was adopted as a girl in Miami, Florida. She is pursuing a career as a flight attendant.