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Meet Dretona Maddox of Purposely Chosen in Riverside

Today we’d like to introduce you to Dretona Maddox.

Dretona, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
When I was 14 years old, my grandmother, who was my legal guardian, unexpectantly died of a massive heart attack. Her sudden death left me an orphan. My mother died when I was four years old, and my father is unknown. My grandmother was all I had. After her death, I became homeless. I relied on the charity of friends and strangers to shelter me. I moved around a lot. My average stay at someone’s house was usually about two weeks before I “wore my welcome out” and needed to move to the next home. When I was 15, closer to 16 years old, I was blessed with the opportunity to stay with a family in Compton, CA. To this very day, I refer to them as my “God-family.” The matriarch of the family allowed me to stay in her home with the conditions that I returned to school, got a job, and paid $100 a month for room and board.

Shortly after getting acclimated to my new environment, I found out that pregnant. To remain in the home, I could not have a baby. Therefore, I terminated my pregnancy. For over 20 years, I secretly carried the shame and guilt of my abortion. In 2011, I was given the opportunity to write a program that would provide residential care services to pregnant and parenting teens in foster care and their babies. In 2014, I opened my first maternity home, and in 2015, I opened my second maternity home. Although I will always carry my unborn child in my soul, I am no longer carrying the shame and guilt of aborting my child. I believe that God has forgiven me and has blessed me to make sure that no teen mom that comes in my care will ever have to decide to terminate the life of their child to keep a roof over her head. I have also forgiven myself.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
There is nothing smooth about my road. My life has been paved with debris and roadblocks. I grew up without parents or caretakers, and that made for a very complicated life. My mother died of suicide; I was four years old. The foundation of my life was built on chaos. From birth until her death, my home was filled with domestic violence, depression, and anger. And after my mother died, I struggled with feelings of abandonment, acceptance, and always wondering why I wasn’t enough for her to make a different choice. As I grew up, I buried my emotions in the drive to become successful so that I could prove to my mother that I was worth her living.

We’d love to hear more about your organization.
I am the founder and executive director of Purposely Chosen, Inc. Our company is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that provides support and advocacy services for pregnant and parenting teens in foster care, ages 13-21, and their babies. Our services include two maternity homes in the Inland Empire of Southern California. I am most proud of our advocacy services. We work hard to change the narrative of how the general public views our teen parents. Our teen parents are responsible, loving, nurturing, and, more importantly, dare to parent their children with the support of our staff. We are set apart because we have a 100 percent high school graduation rate for those who complete our program and allowed to stay until high school completion. Our teen parents are shattering glass ceilings and proving that they are not just a statistic. But above all of this, I am more proud that our teen moms are breaking the cycle of abuse and or neglect.

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
The quality or characteristic I feel is most important to my success is my commitment to my legacy. I see the future. I am already planting seeds for the generations that will never meet me in person. The pain and disappointments that I endured cost too much for me to let my existence die in vain. I am committed to leaving a legacy that will make my great, great, great-grandchildren proud.

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Image Credit:
https://www.kimazingphotos.com/

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