Mercedes Russaw, who was once a child living in foster care, is now making a difference in the lives of others. She is a mentor to 15-year-old kids in the foster care system in Collin County. She Joined the One Community Church in Plano about seven years ago, but was introduced to their Adoption Ministry in 2016. She strives to be the kind of mentor they can have long term. She works with their foster parents as well to help them identify needs that otherwise may not have come to light. She says, “If I can be someone who influences a child to not harm themselves, or to believe they still have a purpose left in the world, that’s what I want to do.”

Russaw encourages her mentees to delve into their past, but cautions that it should be for the sake of closure. At the urging of her son, she has considered foster parenting and adoption, but right now she is focused on helping the kids she is currently working with. If nothing more, she feels she may provide support for them as someone who has experienced the same types of hardships.

Mercedes was placed in foster care when she was only 2 1/2 years old. Her mom had left her and her 1 1/2-year-old brother with a friend and disappeared. Caught up with drugs and prostitution, her mom drifted in and out of her life. She went on to have seven more children who were all placed in foster care. Mercedes ended up being adopted by Patricia and Merle Woods. The Woods had plenty of foster parenting experience and feared Mercedes was headed down the wrong path. The more they sheltered her, the more trapped she felt.

At 18 she left home to stay in a shelter in San Diego. She had missed a lot of school and risked not graduating, so she decided to get serious about her life. She got her ducks in a row, kept in touch with Patricia, and moved in with her biological mom. At 20 she had a son. After three tough years with her mother, she realized that the life she had led growing up had been for the best. Mercedes hopes to give her mentees a sense of community and togetherness, things she wished she had growing up.