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BETHESDA, MARYLAND (WUSA9) -- On any given day, there are roughly 400,000 children in foster care in the United States and millions of adults who passed through the system when they were young. But few use that experience to try to make a difference the way Janiva Magness does.

Janiva does not just sing the blues. She has lived them. "My Mom killed herself when I was 13. My father killed himself when I was 16," she said.

Janiva grew up in a family wracked by mental illness, violence and addiction.

"Some of the most painful memories are that everything I owned, everything that I owned fit into a trash bag," said Janiva.

As a teenager, she ran away from home with a drug dealer but eventually, ended up in foster care. "I went through 12 placements in two years," she recalled. "Some of them were completely Jerry Springer."

Music became her salvation.

"It was the music that helped me feel connected and helped me feel like I wasn't alone," she said.

Janiva hasn't forgotten her past. In fact, she has embraced it, providing hope for those suffocated by despair.

"Today, I promise, I have a blessed life. Because the early part of my life no longer defines me. It really doesn't. It's wonderful," she said.

Janiva Magness will be performing at the Bethesda Blues and Jazz Club this weekend, in part to support the Child Welfare League of America and the Foster Care Alumni of America.

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