According to the Administration for Children and Families, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, there were 437,500 children in the foster care system in 2016. That number isn’t just a statistic. It represents children that are suffering from hurt and loss. Tashima Dukes used to be one of those children. Dukes persevered against all odds to make a successful life for herself. Now, she is using her happy ending to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.

Dukes is certified in sexual abuse counseling and grief counseling. She holds three master’s degrees and is currently working on a Ph.D. in psychology. For 13 years she has been teaching foster parents and foster care administrators how to properly and efficiently communicate with the kids who are in care. She helps them to understand the trauma the children have experienced and how they can help them.

For years Dukes bounced around in foster care before finally aging out of the system. She went through 13 different foster homes and was abandoned by her family on several occasions. It was not an easy life. She never bothered to decorate any of her surroundings or get too settled because she knew she wouldn’t be there long. After college, she worked for the foster care agency that placed her. On Monday mornings she would go in to find children who had been dropped off in the lobby by their foster parents after a hard weekend. It was a tragic sight. She knew those children desperately need hope.

Dukes wrote the book Truth Be Told: A Foster Child’s Recollection which was released early this year. Her book shows there is life after abuse and trauma. Duke plans to continue providing a voice for the underprivileged and underserved for many years to come.