How My Foster Care Story Became A Book Title

By Dr. Deshunna Monay Ricks, CEO/Founder of I AM Valuable (non-profit) and author.

If you would have asked me when I was 8 years old what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would have responded, “a teacher.” Before I was placed in foster care at age 8, I thoroughly enjoyed school. There were way too many people who lived in my maternal grandmother’s home, so school was my safe haven. One day, I went to school with a black eye and that was the day that my life changed in ways that I would not imagine.

When I woke up that morning, I knew that I had a black eye, but I did not care – I left out the door walking with a smile on my way to school. I must have walked past a handful that morning without them noticing my eye. About an hour into class, my teacher asked, “Deshunna, what happened to your eye?” I replied, “my aunt hit me in the eye with a belt.” What happened after that was all a blur. I just remember me, my older brother, and younger sister riding in a white car. As we walked through the doors of Fresno County DSS, I thought to myself “my mama must be coming to pick us up.” Well, that was not the case. The words “you’re going into foster care,” almost 30 years ago would result into the next two decades of devaluing myself.

Foster care destroys something within you – well at least for me it did. I spent countless days wondering why my parents did not love me. I cried many days trying to figure out if I was worth anything. I endured months of believing that I was ugly. Although I kept a smile on my face, I was empty and lonely inside. The words we speak and believe about ourselves are powerful. They have the ability to destroy us or the power to uplift us. Well, I spoke negative about myself and I believed the lies I told myself.  

After living in two homes with strangers, my siblings and I were placed with my paternal grandmother in kinship care. It would be in this home that I experienced God. In this home, I witnessed the strength of a Black woman who raised 8 grandchildren by herself. This home taught me about the importance of community and relationships. I learned wonderful things in this home; however, the negative messages that I believed about myself were louder than the positive ones which kept me in bondage. Ten years of being in foster care allowed me to believe that I was not important, I did not matter, no one loved me, I was not worthy, and it gave me permission to devalue myself.

Although I devalued myself, there was something that I was sure about – living in poverty was not an option. So, at the age of 8, I began my very own campaign which consisted of being smart enough so that I would not have to be poor. I did just that. I went to Computech Middle School, I graduate at the top of my class at Edison High in 2002, and I was one of the smartest on my basketball team at Merced College. I thought I was really smart – that’s until I transferred to West Virginia on a full ride basketball scholarship. I threw it all away because the negative talk and self-doubt haunted me. So, after a short five months, I dropped out of school and returned to Fresno. It was my dream of playing in the WNBA and it went down the drain simply because I did not know who I was.

I made up numerous excuses as to why I dropped out of college; but truthfully, it was because I did not value my very own existence. I did not find beauty in my own skin. My self-worth was low. My confidence was on “0”. Loving myself was an afterthought. Even poverty knocked at my door as I sat around and did nothing. That is until I got pregnant. Getting pregnant was the very experience I needed to get my life back on track. When my son was 1, I went back to school. During this time, I worked 60+ hours a week and juggled the responsibilities of being a single mom, all while managing to make the dean’s list every semester. I met some very important people at Fresno State. They believed in me and it just so happened that they looked like me too.

I learned from other Black professionals how valuable I truly was. It would be their words and the support of others that I replayed in my mind when I defended my dissertation on October 16, 2018 and became Dr. Deshunna Monay Ricks. I did not know that the words “I want to be a teacher” at age 8 would result in me teaching children and adults how valuable they truly are. The very words that I needed to speak to my 8-year-old self are the title of my first self-published children’s book “I AM Valuable.” For everything there is a season and in this very season children all over this world need to know that they matter. I AM Valuable is a book that depicts my experience in foster care. It affirms children and speaks life into their very existence. If I were taught the affirmations that are in this book when I was 8, my foster care story would not have made it as a book title. I wrote so that children would embrace who they are. Please purchase your book today and for a child who needs hope, encouragement, and affirmation. The book launches on November 6, 2020 and is available for pre-order at If you would like more than one order please email as PayPal only allows you to purchase 1 copy.