A Wednesday's Child reunion: Damien's story




Posted on November 2, 2011 at 10:15 PM

Updated Saturday, Nov 9 at 3:33 AM

In the 20 years I've been doing Wednesday's Child reports, one of the first things people ask me about is adoptions. They want to know if the kids we featured ever find homes.

Mostly, the answer is "yes" — but not always.

I traveled to Fort Hood for the first of what I hope will be many follow-up stories about the youngsters you've seen on our Wednesday's Child reports.

On a sunny summer day in 1994, 10-year-old Damien was having fun at Celebration Station in Mesquite.

Like thousands of children in the state foster care system, Damien was looking for a "forever home." But that was not his fate.

Damien grew up in foster care, with 30 caseworkers and 50 placements.

He didn't find a home until he enlisted in the U.S. Army.

Today, at age 27, SPC Damien Jones lives in Killeen, stationed at Fort Hood. He's a married man, a new dad.

I hadn't seen him in 17 years.

"It's been a long time," he said as we embraced in the driveway of his suburban residence.

It's taken Damien a long time to come to grips with his past. He's building a new life with his 22-year-old wife Priscilla.

"It sounds real cliché, but it was honestly love at first sight," he said.

But the road to a nice, comfortable home in Central Texas was paved with misery.

"I got adopted, but it didn't work out," Damien said. "I was so badly institutionalized that it didn't matter what they threw at me... they would buy me clothes, they would buy me shoes, they tried to buy me, and it didn't work."

After that, Damien Jones bounced around the state — literally — spending time in shelters, residential treatment centers, lock-ups and foster homes from Denton to McAllen.

He aged out of foster care and got a big wake-up call.

He was on his own... and alone.

"I didn't let what happened to me consume me. I didn't feel sorry for myself. I didn't say, 'poor me.' I'm not going to use this to rob people, join a gang, do drugs," he said. "I sucked it up; I dealt with it, but every night I prayed. It was really hard."

Finding an understanding partner eased the pain.

"Yeah, he was angry; he was mad at the world," Priscilla said. "He's going to anger management and he's a lot better now ... he's become a different person, especially because of our son ... he tries really hard. He's a great father, he really is."

Damien was just a couple of years older than his toddler son when he came under the care of Child Protective Services. The boy who was mad at the world is now the man who now looks at life as a blessing.

"I really want to be able to talk to those kids," he said.

Damien Jones never lost hope. Now he wants to bring hope to other youngsters in foster care.

It was a rough journey, but I wouldn't change anything about it, because I learned a lot," he said. "It made me who I am today."

Searching the Internet, Damien found some of his seven siblings and his birth mother, but relations remain strained.

He grew close to some of the other kids in foster care; now some are dead or in prison.

As for the often-maligned, CPS, Damien says he encountered some caring people along the way.

E-mail gcampos@wfaa.com