Tiffany Haddish Recalls Growing Up in Foster Care: 'I Thought I Was Going to Die There'

"When I made it to 18, I was like, 'Okay, I got to really think bigger,' " she said

Tiffany Haddish
Photo: Emma McIntyre/Getty

Tiffany Haddish is a movie star, Grammy winner and author now, but growing up in foster care she didn't think she would live past the age of 18.

Haddish, 42, was placed in foster care as a child while her mom struggled with mental illness after a car accident left her with brain damage. "When I was in foster care, I mean, I thought I was going to die there," she said in a recent keynote conversation for the Variety Changemakers Summit.

Even if she did survive foster care, she previously told PEOPLE that her future prospects were far from the fame she now enjoys: "I remember being that foster kid and being like, 'Man, I'm probably going to be in jail in two years.' "

But her chance to break out of this harmful cycle came to her in the form of the Laugh Factory Comedy Camp after a social worker said Haddish's options were either the comedy camp or psychiatric therapy. Haddish's choice to go the comedy route would change her life forever.

Now a successful comedian and household name, Haddish is giving back by helping children who are currently in foster care through her organization She Ready Foundation, which pairs children in foster care with internship programs.

"When I made it to 18," she told Variety, "I was like, 'Okay, I got to really think bigger.' And I did think bigger, and I'm definitely where I thought I would be. Well, it's bigger than what I thought, but I feel the way that I was hoping I would feel, and that's secure in my ability to provide for me."

Tiffany Haddish
Robert Smith/Patrick McMullan/Getty

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The Night School actress reflected on the detriments of foster care to her health and self-image during the Variety conversation. She cited this harm as a primary reason for why she wants to help foster kids now.

"When I was a kid and I was moving around, all my stuff had to be in trash bags, and moving like that is not good for the self-esteem because it makes you feel like garbage that can easily be transported to here or there," she said. "You start thinking of yourself as such, as garbage. That was the worst feeling in the world personally, and I told myself if I ever get any power I'm going to try to make sure kids don't feel like that."

Haddish considered being a foster parent herself, but her lawyer suggested adoption instead due to her level of fame, she told Entertainment Tonight last year. "I'm on that process now," she said at the time. "I want to get somebody that's 5 and up. You know, already knows how to use the restroom, already knows how to talk, already knows how to communicate. All I want to do is pour knowledge in ... get them ready for the big, bad world. That's what I want to do."

In January, Haddish told E! News that she has plans to adopt a child, maybe by the end of the year.

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