Victoria Petersen was 12 years old when she entered foster care, and 18 when she aged out of the system without an official adoption. But this month, she became Mrs. Universe.
“Glory be to God forever and ever. Amen,” she wrote on her Facebook page July 22 after winning. “Mrs. Universe 2022.”
Her platform is dedicated to orphans and widows but is especially focused on the youth of the foster care system. She is also pro-life and has spoken out against abortion for preborn children at risk of entering foster care. America’s Kids Belong, an organization dedicated to helping foster kids find homes before they too age out of the system, sponsored Petersen, saying, “[She] shares openly about her traumatic journey through foster care into adulthood. We are thrilled she is using her strength and conviction to fulfill her platform and strong voice in the Foster Care world. Children in foster care have an ally in her and we celebrate her beauty, soul, kindness and drive to make our world a better place for children in foster care!”
The odds are often stacked against teenage foster children, who are often overlooked for adoption because of their age and often traumatic life experiences that fill their childhoods. According to Crescent-News, by the time Petersen reached age 15, there was concern that she would either end up pregnant or in jail and that she would not graduate from high school. But she proved all of those fears wrong with the help of her track coach and her faith in Jesus.
With the support of coach Scott Wichman, Petersen focused on her schoolwork and running. Though she said she would have temper tantrums as a child and did disobey the rules, she was “a pretty good kid.”
“I got really good grades, and I was dedicated to academics and athletics. I wanted to learn more, and knew if I was athletic I couldn’t get involved in substances,” she said. “I had seen how drugs and alcohol negatively affected families. The use of drugs and alcohol became adverse when I thought about having my own family.”
When she met Wichman, she respected him because he took his work as a track coach seriously, and because “he was a decent man.”
“I didn’t have a lot of decent men in my life, but I had no idea he’d impact my life like he did,” she said. Over time, he became her father figure, coaching her to the podium at the Ohio state track championship four times and eventually welcoming her into his family and giving her his last name after she aged out of foster care.
“Scott and his daughters said they wanted me to be a part of their family,” she explained. “I stayed at a lot of places, but for every holiday I came back home.”
When she married her husband Jacob, it was Wichman who walked her down the aisle, a moment with a father she never thought she’d have. Now, Petersen is a mother and foster mom and a strong advocate for foster care children and children in the womb. In a 2020 video for Students for Life, Petersen said:
My mom always said when she saw me with my hands resting beneath my head as a baby on the ultrasound, she knew she loved me and would give birth to me. To say that growing up in the foster care system was adverse seems like an understatement. But my mom heroically and bravely chose not to eliminate the potential sufferer — me — and because of her choices, I am now a woman who spends her time passionately advocating to eliminate the suffering of those in the womb and in foster care.
Petersen, who founded Bring Beloved, an online community and resource for foster children, urges pro-lifers to help better the foster care system, saying there are “no better people” than pro-lifers to provide compassion for children in foster care. “If we genuinely love we must undoubtedly choose life,” she said, “not just in our marches and at pregnancy centers but in our backyards, in our homes, and in our foster care system.”
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