OKLAHOMA CITY - Christina Meredith's life wasn't always picture perfect.
“My mother when she was home, she would beat me and use me as her scapegoat and then an hour later, sometimes her brother would be raping me and that would happen for many many years,” Christina Meredith said.
Her childhood may be tough to hear, but for years it was Christina Meredith’s real-life nightmare.
She says the sexual abuse started when she was just 9-years-old, and her mother eventually gave up her parental rights when Christina was 16-years-old.
“I was a shell of a child. I was broken, and it took a lot of self-effort and a lot of therapy, trauma therapy to unravel all of that,” Meredith said.
At 18, she aged out of the foster care system and became homeless, living out of her car. Her dreams were her saving grace.
“I started having these ridiculous dreams about how I would write my story, publish a book and be on a tour," Meredith said.
So to help her reach her goals, she took part in the Miss United States pageant and became Miss California in 2013.
“The validation of hearing my actual name for thousands to hear was a healing moment. It was like this trauma that had been inflicted on me was now instantly healed,” Meredith said.
Now at 32, Christina is serving in the Army and is the author of a book, touring the nation to fight for foster care reform. She says mandatory trauma therapy is key.
“They need mandatory trauma therapy from the moment it happened and they’re pulled from the home and placed into the system until they are whole again.”
She also believes mandatory after-school activities for every high school foster teen will help give them structure and purpose.
“You can experience hardship as a young person, but if you have something to go back to, it won't cripple you,” Meredith said.
Meredith speaks to foster children around the nation. She says she loves it because they can relate in a different way. She encourages children to remember they are the captain of their own ship.
“Write down your dreams, let them be big, don’t let anyone deter you because it doesn’t matter what your circumstances look like and it might take you a long time but you can do it,” she said.
“In fact, I believe children from foster care are more resilient, are more apt to be successful, have more knowledge or wisdom in a worldly sense to where they can achieve those big dreams.”
Meredith’s book Cinder Girl is out now.