Bell City woman tells story of abuse and triumph

BLOOMFIELD, MO (KFVS) - For ten years a Southeast Missouri girl endured physical, emotional, and sexual abuse.

Tiffani Stone, 23, is in the minority. She is a former foster kid who graduated from college. Very few make it that far, and that's something Tiffani Stone wants to change.

"Before I was a year old, I was placed in my first foster home," said Tiffani Stone.

It was a rough beginning for Tiffani Stone.

"Living with my biological mom she wouldn't take care of us, she physically abused me and I was abused sexually by a babysitter," said Stone.

After missing weeks upon weeks of school she failed the second grade. She was one of six children, and Tiffani says she often took care of her siblings.

"There were times my brother and I would have to go steal food from the grocery store close to our house because we didn't have anything to eat."

In 1999, foster parent Leasa Stone took a ten-year-old girl named Tiffani into her Bell City home.

"It wasn't the most pleasant thing at first," said Leasa Stone.

Leasa didn't have children of her own, and she quickly fell in love with Tiffani.

Three years later, she adopted her.

"I don't think of her as adopted, because she's mine," said Leasa Stone.

Through the love and support of her new family, and the social worker who stuck by her from the beginning Tiffani says she found herself.

"Your life is only what you make it," said Tiffani.

She graduated recently from Southeast Missouri State University which was a huge accomplishment in her book.

"Around 1-3 percent of foster kids go to college and graduate, I'm one of the three percent," said Tiffani. "I want that to increase."

She's also following in her social worker's footsteps.

"The impact she made on my life. I wanted to be that person for someone else."

Armed with a new social work degree she now works with children through the Bootheel Counseling Services in Bloomfield.

"I feel like I can do my job better because I can relate to them."

She hopes her life story inspires others.

"It doesn't matter what kind of past you had growing up it's all about choices and you have to make, the choice to succeed."

Tiffani hopes to one day be able to share her story on a broader scale with children.

She's heading back to school this fall to earn her Master's Degree.

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