We only know what we know, as a wise man once said, and when all we know growing up is conflict and trauma, envisioning how life can be healthy and happy can be a challenge.
One local woman who's been through some terribly difficult times understands that dilemma and now she's on a mission.
"I don't know," Britney Page says, about the central figure in her early childhood years. "He could be my father. I don't know. I don't even know if he's my dad."
What Britney does know is that when she was two years old, her mother placed her with Manuel Roy Catron, where she stayed for years, she says, as a sort of prisoner.
"So, the sexual abuse started when I was 8. I was responsible for cleaning the house, taking care of all of the duties. I honestly felt like I was his little, individual sex slave," she says. Catron was convicted for "lewd or lascivious acts on a child" in 2005.
At age 13, Britney escaped that home and found her way into the San Luis Obispo County Foster Care program, eventually finding a family that helped her move forward.
"Were you aware that what you were going through was not normal?" I asked.
Britney shakes her head.
"You thought every kid went through this kind of thing?"
"Not every kid," she says. "But I figured that if it's happening to me, it must be happening to other people."
Now in her early 20s, Britney is working with Family Care Network as a mentor to other young people.
"Look at me," she says. "I'm helping those that I used to be. I'm making a difference!"
She says her long-term goal is to become a social worker, so she can offer kids going through tough times, some expert help.
"It's amazing what can happen for a child who has structure and love and nurturing, three meals a day and a roof over their head, someone to pay attention and help them," says Tracy Schiro, Assistant Director of San Luis Obispo County Social Services.
According to the department's surveys, the need for people willing to offer their homes to children in need is immense.
"In SLO County alone, there are 375 to 400 children ages 0-18 who need homes right now," she says. "We're at an all-time low in the number of families coming forward to help us with this, and we're at an all-time high in the need. But we know no home is perfect. We're not looking for perfect. We're looking for safe. We're looking for a home that can nurture and grow children."
Schiro says foster care is open to all sorts of people, single parents, same gender parents, single people, retired people, anyone over the age of 18 who's interested in opening their heart and home to foster youth.
Britney says offering those children help can be a rewarding experience for host families or "resource families," as they're known.
"The possibility of somebody being really successful and coming from a broken past is an amazing thing to be a part of," she says.
To learn more about foster care in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties and how you can get involved, just go to http://www.slofostercare.com/ or http://ourcountyourkids.org/foster-care/, respectively.