By Anita Debro
Special to the Birmingham Times
Deanna Adkins came to Children’s Village in southwest Birmingham in 2006 during one of the most traumatic times of her life. She was 17 years old and was about to be placed in a runaway shelter when a spot in the group home opened.
“Children’s Village basically saved my life,” said Adkins, now 30. “They provided structure, discipline, motivation, and a drive to succeed.”
When most of her classmates at P.D. Jackson-Olin in Ensley were thinking only about proms, parties, and impending freedom created by their senior year in high school, Adkins was worried about where she would lay her head. Circumstances beyond her control forced the Department of Human Resources (DHR) to remove her from her family. Because most group homes in the area—including Children’s Village—did not accept 17-year-olds, she was looking at being uprooted from Birmingham and forced to live in Montgomery at the runaway shelter.
Fortunately, Adkins said, Children’s Village administrators opened a spot for her at the home in southwest Birmingham. She lived there for one year and found a family comprised of the house parents, along with other girls. She was the oldest, so the girls looked up to her.
“It gave me a chance to offer some guidance,” Adkins recalled, adding, “The first few months were hard. I really struggled my first semester at school.”
Her days and nights were structured, and she had to adjust to living with nine strangers in the girls’ house.
“My close friends [outside of Children’s Village] knew about my situation, but I tried to not show any signs to other people of what was going on,” Adkins said.
The staff at the group home supported her studies and made sure she had a life similar to that of her fellow students, complete with extracurricular activities. Adkins continued to perform for the marching band at her school and attended two proms during her senior year, she said: “They really cared, and they are there to set you up to succeed.”
It was not just the staff at Children’s Village that helped, Adkins said. Donors frequently stepped in to offer support, paying for field trips, schools supplies, and many other things.
By the second semester of her senior year, things were much better for Adkins.
“It took about five or six months for me to be comfortable and feel OK,” she said. “I just had to accept the situation I was in, and I had to stay positive.”
Adkins graduated from high school and went on to Lawson State Community College, where she lived in the dormitory. She eventually graduated from Virginia College and is now a patient care representative at a local health-care provider.
Adkins knows things could have been worse during her senior year in high school: “I know someone else is always in a worse situation. There were kids at Children’s Village who had been there for years. One girl had lived there for six years.”
Now, Adkins does what she can to bring awareness to those who live in group homes, such as Children’s Village.
“I am more comfortable talking about my time there now, and I want to change people’s perspectives,” she said.
Adkins has organized fundraisers for Children’s Village while sharing her story and now serves on the organization’s junior board. She often returns to visit the staff and children.