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Simone Biles is arguably one of the greatest and most decorated gymnasts of all time, with four Olympic gold medals and many other awards. However, it hasn’t always been like this. Biles grew up in foster care after her mother was determined unfit to care for Biles and her three other siblings. She and her siblings were often found playing outside, leading neighbors to call child protective services. It was discovered Biles’ parents were struggling with substance abuse and not providing even minimal care for their children, which often meant Biles and her young siblings were left alone for long periods of time and were regularly skipping meals. 

For the next three years, she and her siblings were in foster care, moving from home to home until her grandparents adopted them when Biles was six. “It is a wonderful thing,” Ron Biles, Biles’ legal father and maternal grandfather initially told USA TODAY in regards to the advice he’d give people who are considering fostering or adoption.

“It gives you the opportunity to enrich the life of yourself and the child, and enrich everyone who is involved in your life…Raising kids is just a wonderful thing. You get to see them grow and be a part of that, and I can’t think of anything more satisfying. It is an important issue, and I could only say good things about it.”

Recently, Biles pulled out of the all-around competition in the Olympics to focus on her mental health, citing she has the “twisties,” which is a gymnast term for your mind not being able to be in sync with your body and not knowing where you are in the air, where you are going to land, or what part of your body you are going to land on. This can lead to devastating and life-altering injuries. However, it was later announced she would compete in last Tuesday’s Women’s Balance Beam Final, the last gymnastics event in the Olympics.

In a piece written in 2018 to CNN promoting adoption, Biles stated, 

“My road to success began the day my grandfather, and his wife officially adopted my sister and me…although I was young when my foster care ordeal began, I remember how it felt to be passed off and over-looked. Like nobody knew me or wanted to know me. Like my talents didn’t count, and my voice didn’t matter. Finding a family made me feel like I mattered.” 

While Biles’ incredible accomplishments are often discussed, what it took for her to get there and her past is not. She is just one of the over 400,000 youth in foster care who has overcome her struggles despite having a rough childhood. In fact, it’s estimated that 50% of children in foster care won’t graduate high school or earn their GED, and only approximately 3% of children in foster care will earn a bachelor’s degree. Biles is living proof that anyone can grow up to do amazing things despite their past.

Cover Photo Credit: Simone Biles’ Facebook Page

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Chinese-American adoptee and published author who seeks to share my story and inspire others.

The views and opinions expressed in these articles are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Human Defense Initiative.