The story of Helen Ramaglia’s life has chapters that are almost too painful to hear. But the Alpharetta resident has collected all the agonizing particulars in a book to keep others from experiencing the same trauma that characterized most of her childhood.
“By the time I was 5, I had more loss, devastation and trauma than most people have in their lives,” said the South Carolina native, now 50. “I was born into a violently abusive family, and by the time I was 9, I was next door to a mental breakdown. My mother and father had a very violent relationship, and at one point I was locked up in juvenile detention to keep my father from killing me.”
Much of Ramaglia’s youth was spent in foster care, where she was largely ignored by the system. At 17, she aged out of the program and was at a desperate crossroads.
“At 17, I sat with a handful of sleeping pills, a proposal of marriage or homelessness in front of me,” she recalled. “I got married and fought my way for years through purgatory.”
At 35, with two children, Ramaglia found the inspiration to overcome her past. Through prayer, faith and a solid support network, she turned her life around. One of the primary objectives of her new direction was to help other children caught in the miasma of the foster care system.
“I made God a promise that I’d write a book,” she said. “I have a message that needs to get out.”
A few weeks ago, Ramaglia fulfilled that promise with the publication of “From Foster to Fabulous: One Little Girl’s Journey through Abuse, Foster Care, Aging Out and Life Beyond.” The book doesn’t just recount her personal journey; it also takes readers through her fight to become a foster parent herself.
Four years ago, she and her husband, John, adopted two toddlers, one of whom is a special-needs child, and she left a career in banking to raise them. She also created a mentoring program through Kids3, a nonprofit that works with neglected and abused children, and she spends as many as 60 hours a week speaking to civic and local organizations about the need for more foster resources in the north metro area.
“There are not many resources in the north Atlanta area. We need far more,” she said. “People don’t realize how big a crisis there is for these children, and how we need more places that offer resources for them.”
A few weeks ago, Ramaglia’s commitment to foster children was spotlighted in Washington by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute.
“Going to D.C. was the most exhilarating experience I ever had,” she said. “I’d love to be there to fight for the rights of children. My dream is for everyone in Congress to read my book and then have a Q&A session. I think then they will truly understand what these children need.”
Copies of Ramaglia’s book can be ordered on her website, www.fromfostertofabulous.com.
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