By Stephanie Nolasco
Published April 20, 2019
Before turning 18, Regina Louise found herself in over 30 foster homes and even psych wards — but at age 41 she was finally adopted by the woman who had been denied the opportunity three decades ago.
The now-55-year-old author and child advocate is turning her story into a Lifetime film airing this Saturday. “I Am Somebody’s Child,” which is based on her 2018 memoir “Someone Has Led This Child to Believe” and 2009’s “Somebody’s Someone,” tells the true story of how she persevered in the US foster care system.
It stars Angela Fairley as Louise and Ginnifer Goodwin as Jeanne Taylor, the counselor who was determined to give the abused, neglected girl a promising future.
“It’s otherworldly,” Louise told Fox News about the Lifetime biopic. “I’m in a dream come true. Every moment of it is incredible and humbling. It’s a spectrum of feeling, not one could possibly capture it.”
The Chicago Tribune previously reported Louise was a toddler when her biological mother left her in Austin, Texas, in the care of a woman who took in children. Her father only vaguely knew she existed. Often mistreated, Louise ran away at age 11 in hopes of rejoining her mother, only to be rejected. Louise ultimately ended up in California’s foster care system.
In 1975, on the eve of her 13th birthday, Louise found herself at a children’s shelter in the Bay Area where Taylor worked. The counselor, captivated by the teen, developed a loving bond with her that involved trips to the opera and ballet, making her a dress with rainbows and hearts stitched to the front, as well as teaching Louise to believe in herself.
The Los Angeles Times reported Taylor yearned to adopt Louise, and Louise wanted more than anything to finally have a family to call her own. However, the newspaper shared the National Association of Black Social Workers preferred at the time to place black children with black families, insisting those homes would provide a more suitable upbringing. Meanwhile, Taylor was white, single and 31.
The court denied her petition to adopt. A devastated Louise spent the rest of her childhood being placed from home to home and frequently ran away. The newspaper revealed that, despite her determination to live with Taylor, she was sent to a restricted treatment facility for severely disturbed youth. Taylor would visit Louise with restrictions, but she eventually disappeared, leaving Louise confused and heartbroken.
When asked what kept her alive throughout this ordeal, Louise responded, “always being willing to belong to someone and to reimagine to what, at any point, I belonged to.”
“Sometimes it was a scripture,” she continued. “Sometimes it was a story that I may have heard of someone’s difficulty, and my ability to always be willing to consider I had it better, I was good, whether it was because of my smile or it was because of my effervescent personality…. If somebody had it difficult, I could always imagine my circumstances were nowhere as difficult as theirs.”
Louise described how despite being alone and feeling unloved, she relied on hope to keep her going.
“I literally was grateful when my feet hit the ground and I had one more day to show up and be beautiful,” said Louise. “One more day to write my possibility across the sky.”
Louise would go on to become a mother to a son and pursue a childhood dream of becoming a hairstylist. Still, the past haunted her. Louise decided to address it by writing a book. During her research, she requested her file from the social services department. It was there when she discovered letters Taylor had sent years ago that were never given to Louise. But despite attempts to track her down, those searches became fruitless.
After her book was released, Louise was interviewed by a Bay Area paper and candidly discussed Taylor using her real name. The Los Angeles Times revealed that a woman who had worked at the same shelter Taylor was in 25 years ago read the article and tracked down Taylor, who was then living in Alabama. Louise soon received an email with the message: “I am so proud of you, sweetheart.”
The two women quickly shared a tearful phone conversation where Taylor revealed the truth. After her adoption was denied, she attempted to stay in touch, but her letters went unanswered. She believed Louise no longer wanted anything to do with her. She later married a man in the military, took his last name and left the Bay Area. The couple shared a son and they lived in various towns.
But after all this time, Taylor was eager to finally give the gift Louise had always wanted.
In 2003, in the same Contra Costa County courthouse where a judge denied Taylor’s request, the 59-year-old adopted Louise.
“It was a dream,” said an emotional Louise. “It was a dream come true. It helped me believe in myself…. It helps to validate my intrinsic knowing all along that I was worth it. That I am worth it, regardless of what someone has to say. It’s what I say, it’s what my gut says that matters most. So it was in that moment, and all the moments after, that I honestly felt so validated - spiritually, personally, humanly validated for believing in myself.”
Louise described her relationship with Taylor as one of a typical mother and daughter — one that is nurturing and at times comical.
“I speak a lot and at one point, I forgot to button my shirt at an event, and she happened to be with me and literally came on the stage and whispered in my ear, ‘Sweetheart, I’d like you to check your cleavage and ask yourself, ‘Is that the message you really want to put out?’ I’m like, ‘OMG, you need to get outta here,” Louise chuckled. “… She’ll often say, ‘I’m sorry I wasn’t there for that.’ And I just sit with that and let that part that feels the need to be seen or heard to be recognized for what wasn’t.”
Today, Louise hopes the Lifetime film will be an awakening experience for those unfamiliar with the foster care system in our country, as well as encourage them to raise awareness as a community.
“We need workshops,” said Louise. “We need retreats. We need to bring to children in foster care the same things that we bring to our executives in order for them… to be successful. We need to bring those concepts and ideas into the realm of foster care, at least in the work that I do and will continue to do. That’s what I will do, encourage other people… because, system-wise, it’s too huge to take on. But individually, as a collective and as a community, we can get together… and create experiences that normalize.”
"I Am Somebody's Child: The Regina Louise Story" airs April 20 at 8 p.m. on Lifetime.