The Full Story
The Beginning of Foster Care
Danisha was homeschooled until March of her Freshman year of high school when Child Protective Services required that she was put into public school to ensure she was getting the education and adult supervision required. Three days before her 16th birthday, she was picked up by a CPS case worker and placed into a foster home.
After a few weeks, Danisha was able to join her sister as her new guardian.
As time went on, Danisha's case worker reminded her frequently that any mistake she made, including being late for class or giving an attitude, would result in her being moved from her sister's care and placed in another foster home.
When Danisha turned 18 in the fall of her senior year, her CPS worker pulled her out of class to let her know that she was no longer allowed to stay with her sister and she had to move out immediately. She stayed with friends throughout high school until she graduated. She moved in with her dad for a little bit but felt that it was not a safe environment, so she moved out on her own at 19.
Although Danisha did not experience foster care until she was a teenager, the conversation of foster care and threats of foster care were consistently brought up her entire life.
Her Educational Barriers
Danisha was homeschooled from Pre-K until March of her freshman year of high school. When Danisha was young, her parents told her that women do not pursue education because it was a religious sin. They believed women were solely created to stay home and raise children, so basic educational skills like math, reading, and writing were not taught to her. Danisha learned how to read at 9 years of age by listening to cassette tapes and reading along with the audio. She vividly remembers using the answer key to her siblings math book to figure out how to do fractions and multiplication.
In elementary school, there was a homeschooling program that Danisha was part of. She received hooked on phoenix books to help her learn how to read, when the counselor told her to slow down and learn how to sound out words, he brought to her parents how she would struggle if she did not spend time learning to sound words out. It was at that time, due to accountability of education, that Danisha's parents decided to move her from this program and become an independent homeschool group.
In high school, Danisha's English teacher discovered that Danisha had dyslexia, which impacted her ability to read, write, and successfully learn math. Danisha entered into high school 20 units behind and was immediately told by her counselor that he would not waste his time or helping her figure out how to catch up because she would be a statistic and drop out of school. Danisha shares about this experience in her book and labeled the chapter, "Dr. Mr. Counselor" to help others understand that putting people down is not beneficial or helpful, instead it's hurtful.
The educational barriers did not stop there. Danisha would fight daily to get to and from school, but was able to graduate with 20 additional units and on time with her class.
Danisha embarked on College and failed her first semester.
Once Danisha learned how to navigate community college, she believed that she would be able to catch up. In 2014, she had transferred to an online bachelors program before receiving another call that would change her life.
Over the course of Danisha's high school career, she stayed with friends to ensure that she could get to school but that came with arguments that she would never expect. Several people, including her CPS worker, told her that she was selfish for focusing on school instead of helping her parents at home. As a teenager in the system, she was often labeled as "difficult" because she would be told to sit down, be quiet, and "let the adults talk" about what she needed.
When Danisha made the choice to go to college, she found herself stuck with a difficult decision to make: Attend college and work part time, or work full time and hope night classes were brought back to the school.
She decided to attend school and work part time, but that immediately left her struggling financially and resulted in losing her apartment because she could not afford it.
From the age of 18 to 24, Danisha moved over 33 times. Well, at least that is what the post office says when she looked up her addresses. After so many moves and a lot of lost mail, Danisha registered for a PO Box to ensure she was not having to get her mail from multiple locations.
The registry shows that Danisha moved at least 33 times from the age of 18 to 24.
Danisha also spent a full year living in her car and several years bouncing from friends houses, strangers couches, and sleeping in her car outside grocery stores and Starbucks.
In 2015, after successfully moving into her one bedroom, one bathroom, 500 square foot apartment with one of her brothers, she got a call that an another brother needed a place to stay. A few months past, and she received another call that she needed to pick up her three other siblings that ranged from the ages of 12-15.
She immediately became the guardian of three teenagers and had two young adults living in her one bedroom-one bathroom-500 square foot apartment.
Through her village support, Danisha was able to move from this apartment to a 4 bedroom townhome 9 months after she took in her siblings.
Unfortunately within her home state, guardianship is not always seen the same as foster care, so she was provided only state assistance that was based on her income. After years of fighting for the financial support, she decided it was time to move on and continue her educational journey so that she could change her financial situation for herself and her siblings.
The state support that she received was originally $680 total in support for a family of 6 and decreased when her income increased.
From Foster to PhD
It took Danisha 8 years to complete her bachelors degree, one full year to complete her masters, and 3 1/2 years to complete her PhD.
During her last 2 years of her bachelors program, her master's program, and her PhD program, Danisha was adjusting to guardianship-life, working full time, and attending school full time.
As of 2024, National statistics for foster youth graduating high school and college are estimated to be the following:
High school: 50%.
Associates or bachelor's degree: 3%
Master's Degree: Less than 1%
Doctoral degree: There is not an estimated number.
Dr. Danisha Keating's research was on best practices for foster youth support programs at community college.
After she completed her degree, she wrote her story, "From Foster to PhD: Letters from a suitcase" and has sold over 2,500. Her hope by sharing her story is to encourage other foster youth that they can still do amazing things in life, regardless of how they were raised or what they endured. She believes that every foster youth is here for a purpose and have the ability to accomplish their own
Foster to ___ stories.
Danisha is a global advocate for foster youth, guardianship, and foster parents. She shares her story because she firmly believes that it can help change the system for those who come after her. She believes that there is power behind people finding healing and highlighting foster youth voices to help make the changes necessary in the system.
Her Story on the Big Screen
33 Roofs Documentary
Dr. Danisha Keating and her team are working tirelessly on her documentary, 33 roofs. They are highlighting the barriers that foster youth face with homelessness and academic challenges. Her hope by sharing her story is to help encourage other foster youth and bring awareness so that together, we can end foster youth homelessness and barriers to achieving their goals.
To stay up to date with Dr. Keating's documentary, you can subscribe to her newsletter here: