Kevin Nathan first introduced us to North Haven track star Erica Marriott three years ago, as she searched for a family through the foster care system. Now he has a special follow up on her difficult and inspirational journey.
Erica Marriott was abandoned and abused and needed a family to adopt her.
Then the North Haven high school senior discovered she had a rare talent on the track, all as she searched for a family.
"You have to be ahead of your obstacles no matter what,” Marriott explained.
Marriott has faced big obstacles off the track. Her mother sent her to Hartford from Jamaica when she was 10.
"I was supposed to be on vacation. It was supposed to be three months and it's been eight years,” Marriott said.
A judge ruled that Erica was at risk for future neglect if she went home to live with her mother. Parental rights were terminated, and Marriott lived in foster care, going from one home to another, looking to be adopted.
“I didn't have food. I did have shelter...I just didn't someone there to love and care. It wasn't the best of situations,” she told NBC Connecticut. “I'd go to bed crying or hungry. I would be beaten. It's not something that I like, but in order to get to where I am today I had to go through that.”
Her sudden success in track helped numb some of the pain. But she longed for a family to give her a forever home.
Ryan Buzzell is her current social worker.
"She is guarded in a certain way, but I respect that because of what she's gone through and the partnerships she's had to figure out it's probably a challenge,” Buzzell said.
Unlike Marriott’s running, so fast and effortless, finding a family can be slow and complicated.
Marriott had been in the DCF system for six years when she met Isatu Jalloh.
“I always know I wanted to be a foster mom...back in Africa in Sierra Leone where I come from, my mom always help people,” Jalloh said.
The Connecticut DCF system matched Jalloh and Marriott.
"I came here to stay as a temporary home for two weeks and then I said OK I don't want to leave," Marriott said.
There are no plans to formally adopt Erica, but her new home with Jalloh and Jalloh's son feels like so much more than foster care.
"I never treated her as a foster kid. I always wanted her to feel like she was in a home where she could talk to me," Jalloh explained.
"I have a family that isn't related by blood, but they’re my family. I can always call them if I need something,” Marriott added.
With her life on track, Marriott’s broken numerous North Haven track records. She usually dominates the competition, even when she’s not 100 percent.
"I always just have to beat the odds."
Marriott earned a track scholarship to Stony Brook and plans to study pre-med next fall. She no longer runs from her past, she embraces it.
"As much as my childhood was bad I don't regret it anymore because it's helped me become a better person,” she said.
"I always push her. Sky's your limit. Go as high as you can,” Jalloh said.
Marriott now chases her dreams of college track, becoming a doctor, and having her own family.
Her life now has a clear focus, and when her kids look into their mom’s eyes someday, this is what she wants them to know.
"I care about you I want you here I brought you here for a reason, because I love you and I want you to live the life that I never had. I can have everything that I need and I am so thankful for it.”
The reason Jalloh is not planning to adopt Marriott is because she is now 18, her own legal guardian, and the goal was all along to make a permanent connection with a family that she now has.
But she does want to reunite with her biological mom and her six brothers someday and help them.
If you have interest in becoming a foster parent, click here for more information.