Samantha and Jenna Robinson sat side by side under the white-hot lights of a quiet dressing room at the historic Paramount Theatre. Dressed elegantly and ready for the camera, the average onlooker might have thought the girls were born and raised on the stage. Not so for Sam and Jenna. Today however, the sisters felt right at home in the theatre; a place that has come to symbolize both a creative outlet and therapeutic release from past trauma and painful memories. Coming from an abusive biological home that suffered from chronic chemical dependency and every negative side effect as a result, it was hard to imagine that the two bright, articulate girls sitting in front of the camera once hid in terror from regular beatings, poverty and neglect.
The girls’ mother suffered from addiction and spent time in and out of jail for offenses stemming from her dependency. She gave birth several times over. As was most often the case, their biological siblings ended up in state custody. To this day, Sam and Jenna do not know exactly how many siblings they actually have or where they are.
The consequences of their mother’s destructive behavior left the girls in the care of Samantha’s father, himself an addict who seemed more interested in a state welfare check than the actual care of his daughters and their step-siblings.
As the eldest child Samantha often played a parental role in the family, taking responsibility for the care of her sister. A young child herself Sam often sacrificed her safety to protect her younger siblings from their abusive father. Both girls suffered his wrath in bruises and extreme emotional distress more times than they can count.
For years the girls bounced around from one unstable situation to another. They were victimized by their father. They experienced life in homeless shelters. They were rejected by family members, including their own mother. At every turn the girls’ need for safety and stability was met with abuse, neglect and chaos. Their grandmother proved to be the only exception, temporarily caring for them until she fell ill.
When their grandmother could no longer care for them, their mother relinquished them to foster care. Almost immediately they addressed foster parent Gina Robinson as “mom.” Committed to the girls from day one, Gina eventually adopted them and has consistently provided a safe and loving home ever since. Thanks to Gina, Samantha and Jenna are finally safe and free to focus on their dreams.
Samantha and Jenna Robinson have come a long way in their short lives. They’re determined not to waste a single minute of it, and have spoken out publicly in the hope that their story can help others. With a wisdom and compassion that is often startling, the sisters have become powerful voices against child abuse and bullying, going so far as to write, direct and perform a high school play addressing the topic. Their evolution from abused to adopted; actors to activists is a testament to strength, courage and sisterly love.