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Former Valley of the Moon Children's Home resident tells her story

Tammy Linn was just a young child when her father tried to hang her. He later hung himself in jail. A drug addicted mother and an abusive step-father came next.

“My story is just like any other foster kid, full of abuse and neglect,” Linn said casually.

At 12, she ran away from home; she felt safer with other relatives than around the violence she saw at home. Her step-father came looking for her, kicking in the back door to a relative’s home while trying to find her. Her uncle responded by unloading five bullets into her step-father, killing him.

That’s when she ended up in California’s foster care system. She had three stays at the Valley of the Moon Children’s Home, a shelter for abused and neglected kids near Oakmont.

“I was a runner, I ran away from everywhere,” Linn said. “I ran through these hills to the Santa Rosa mall.”

By the time she was 18, she had two kids and a criminal record. For the next 10 years, she was in and out of jail on drug and robbery charges. Ten years later, she faced a lengthy prison sentence, but decided to make the most of it. Although she made it to seventh grade before dropping out of school, she never learned to read. She asked for a Bible and, word, by word, she taught herself to read. Next, she got her GED.

“The warden had a graduation ceremony for me, I got to wear a cap and a gown,” she beamed. “I was 30 years old.”

As soon as she was out of prison and off probation, she signed up for junior college. She got four associate degrees and interned for Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, who along with former Assemblymember John Burton, helped her receive a full governor’s pardon for her past legal indiscretions. This month, she graduated from Sacramento State University with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, and her sights are set on earning her doctorate.

“Without the scholarships from the Valley of the Moon Children’s Foundation, I wouldn’t be standing here today,” Linn concluded.

Linn was the keynote speaker at the foundation’s scholarship awards presentation on July 29 at the Wild Oak Saddle Club. She was one of 47 former Valley of the Moon Children’s Home residents who received $148,500 in scholarships specifically earmarked to help foster youth reach their educational dreams.

The fund began in 2006, when Dianne Edwards, the former director of the Sonoma County Human Services Department, asked her friends for donations instead of birthday gifts. She planned to start a fund to help make college more affordable for people aging out of foster care. She partnered with the Valley of the Moon Children’s Foundation and, to date, the fund has given out $892,500 in scholarship dollars to cover tuition and books.

“There are times when you’re going to want to give up. There’s going to be times it feels too hard,” Laura Colgate, board president of the foundation, told the recipients. “We’re here for you, in the good times and when times are bad.”

Email Emily at emily.charrier@arguscourier.com.

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