(KFVS) - A man now studying law at Southern Illinois University got there by defying the odds.
Raised while bouncing between more than 40 different foster homes in 20 years at the hands of the Department of Children and Family Services, Victor Feraru was last week appointed to return to the agency and prevent the same thing from happening to others.
Established in 1989, the 26-member task force he will join is a multi-disciplinary, legislatively mandated advisory group comprised of child advocates, law enforcement, medical and mental health professionals, attorneys, judges, child and parent advocates and child abuse survivors.
The group, which meets four times a year around the state, makes recommendations to DCFS on policy and practices "directed at improving investigative, prosecution and judicial handling of child abuse cases in a manner that limits additional trauma to the child victim."
"These little kids… they grow up," Feraru said. "If they've been sexually, mentally, physically, spiritually abused, whatever… These kids are going to grow up and become members of society… I think we ignore a lot of what goes on because it's not happening to us."
Veronica Resa, DCFS deputy director of communications, said the agency is much different than it was in the 1980s and 1990s when Feraru was growing up.
During that time, there were about 50,000 children in the system.
Now there are about 16,000.
The agency emphasizes being proactive to get families assistance to keep them together, if possible, before children come into the system, she said.
Feraru comes from an abusive family life, starting with his biological family from the time he was born.
His first interaction with the DCFS was before he turned two years old and he suffered physical, sexual and emotional abuse throughout much of his childhood.
Feraru's struggle was close to ending late in his teen years when a couple sought adoption, but before too long the couple passed away.
"As a kid I wanted to die." Feraru said. "It sounds horrible, but it was a very real alternative to what I was experiencing, so I really yearned for it for a while."
The deaths prompted him to escape to a life on the streets before his story was told on Air America Radio in the early 2000s.
One listener was touched by his story and stepped up to adopt him, leading Feraru to college and law school by the age of 25.
"When you survive abuse -- physical, mental and emotional -- and you come out to the other side you can offer a point of view that a person doesn't get," he said. "Normal life's problems pale in comparison.
"Obviously, I will learn as I go. Primarily what I think sets me apart from a majority of what I would see on any task force is that I am a product of the system. The system didn't help me out any; it was the altruism of human beings. I believe that is why they want me on the task force and I believe that is what I offer them."