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Published:April 25th, 2007 11:32 EST

Janiva Magness Talls About Her Foster Mom

By John Lillpop

This is the second part of a three part special series dedicated to promoting public awareness about National Foster Care Month which, along with Mother's Day, is in May.


Blues Singer


Janiva Magness's life was changed forever by the love and care of an untraditional mom.

Her story:

A 2007 Blues Music Awards Triple nominee, Janiva has been singing the blues for more than 30 years. She credits her musical awakening and the guidance of caring foster parents, social workers and teachers as saving her from a tumultuous childhood and her family's legacy of suicide.

Like the repeating refrain of a hit song, the stunning life story of Janiva Magness will stay with you for a long time.

This talented artist has been singing the blues for more than 30 years. Her simmering, soulful and powerful vocals have made her a favorite of the Los Angeles music scene and beyond.

Her popularity continues to grow thanks to gritty, live performances and seven critically acclaimed albums. In 2006, she captured the Blues Music Award for Best Contemporary Blues Artist and is a triple-nominee in 2007.

Behind the raw, emotional authenticity that Janiva's fans adore, is an inspirational tale of redemption.

She was born into a working-class family just outside of Detroit. It was a tough childhood as both parents
battled alcoholism, her mother was depressive and Janiva suffered molestation by age six.

Shortly after her thirteenth birthday, she lost her mother to suicide. Within a year of that tragedy, she ran away from home to Berkeley, CA where she endured homelessness, substance abuse and isolation.

After what she calls a "moment of clarity," Janiva escaped life on the streets and headed to Minneapolis to stay with a family friend. By the age of 14, she had attempted suicide multiple times.

Over the next two years, she would experience three psychiatric hospitalizations and would live in 12 different foster homes, including a group home for girls with mental retardation.

Janiva remembers:

"They didn't know what to do with me. I was totally out of control and had nowhere to turn. I looked everywhere, but I couldn't find myself."

She began hanging around local blues clubs where she discovered the distinctive sounds of legendary blues guitarist Otis Rush. She says the music made her want to "hang on to life."

Although this musical awakening would become an essential part of her future success, the trials of her young life would continue.

When Janiva was 16, her father committed suicide and she became pregnant with a daughter she would later give up for adoption.

With all doors closing around her, Janiva went to a local youth center where they connected her to Carrie, a divorced mother of five children who often provided temporary shelter to runaways.

Moved by her plight, Carrie decided to become a certified foster parent because she couldn't bear to abandon this young girl.

Janiva recalls:

"Carrie showed me kindness and compassion. She had the capacity to say 'no' when I needed it most. Music inspired me to go on, but Carrie set boundaries that truly saved my life."

Bolstered by the guidance and support of a caring adult, Janiva began the long journey of healing that she continues to this day.

Along the way, she discovered her own musical gifts while working as an intern at a recording studio.

Today, at age 50, she and her band travel the world touring more than 200 days a year. When's she's not on the road, she and her husband Jeff reside in LA.

And, after 16 years apart, Janiva reconnected with the child she gave up for adoption. She enjoys a close relationship with her daughter, an accomplished musician, and is a proud grandmother to five-year-old Henry.

"I have a life today I could never have imagined. You know, your fate does not have to be your destiny. Fate is what you are handed. Destiny is about what you could be. I'm living
proof. The tragedies of my life no longer define me."

What a beautiful and uplighting story!

For more information about foster love, please visit this web site:

Next: On Friday, we will feature the personal story of a film/television actress who was blessed by a woman who became her foster mother.