While hundreds of Utahns donated to financially troubled families for Christmas, an Ogden woman gave three girls a new life.

Pamela Brooks, student organizations coordinator at Weber State University, chose to adopt the three girls, ages 3, 4, and 7, even though she is not married. That action - a single person adopting three children - may be the first of its kind in Utah, said Roland Oliver, adoption specialist for Utah Division of Family Services."We go through our lives wondering if we've impacted anyone and if we've created change," Brooks said. "I hope someday I'll be able to look back and know that I've made a difference in three lives."

Brooks said she took in the three children to show them that "not everyone does drugs; not all daddies hit mommies; and life can be safe and secure."

Brooks met the girls and their mother two years ago while participating in a Christmas project at St. Anne's Center sponsored by Weber State students. She remembers the family's stench and how even the homeless avoided the group.

Brooks saw the girls' torn thin clothing and made arrangements to take them shopping. Their first stop, however, was a warm bubble bath at Brooks' home.

"They acted like they were in heaven," she said. "They didn't want to get out."

Brooks later discovered that the girls slept on a single dirty mattress with only a few thin blankets.

Brooks followed the first encounter with more gifts, baby-sitting and field trips.

In time, she became the girls' on-again, off-again foster parent after social workers learned about the father's abuse and drugs in the home. Officials warned that foster parenting can be painful, but Brooks wanted to help the girls anyway.

"There were days when I wanted to run away," Brooks said.

"They needed so much, and there was only so much I could do."

Faced with expensive health and educational needs, Brooks filled lunch hours and vacation time with doctor's appointments, school and day-care visits and meetings with social workers.

At night she worked out tight finances, taught the girls simple words and reading and explained that a knock at the door was no reason for panic.

But family ties often took the children back into violent and unsupervised environments.

Brooks found herself walking a fine line, trying not to alienate herself from the family while encouraging the girls' mother to obtain the life skills she needed.

The task also became a thankless endeavor. "It can be frustrating when the kids cry for their parents," she said. "No matter what parents do, kids love them."

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Now, as the girls' legal guardian, Brooks said she can only hope the three will have a similar love for her some day.

"I panic sometimes because they're my kids now," she said. "It's overwhelming because I know statistically speaking, the girls won't make good life decisions. They've seen so much violence."

But she said despite the cost in time and emotions, she'll do everything she can to help.

"I believe raising these children will be tough, but I'll love it."

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