From foster care to the Olympics to being one of the greatest gymnasts of all time, Simone Biles has had quite the journey to reach this point in her career.
At the young age of just 3, Simone was frequently taken into foster care as her biological mother, Shanon, struggled with drugs and alcohol. Whenever Biles and her siblings were taken into foster care, their social worker would call Shanon’s father, Ron, to let him know about the situation.
This happened several times before Ron finally asked if the children would be allowed to come and live with him, his wife Nellie and their 2 sons in Houston.
“We’re family,” Ron Biles previously said to USA TODAY Sports.
For Ron, he had no doubt about taking on the children as it was a simple as being family but, for Nellie Biles, it wasn’t that easy. She didn’t know the children well and had always envisioned that she and Ron would travel when their teenagers had left home.
But, despite the disappointment, Nellie knew she had to sacrifice her travel dreams as there were young children who need a loving and settled home.
“There’s nothing, nothing worse, I feel, than having a child going from one place to the next. They need to have that sense of belonging,” Nellie Biles said. “I really think it’s important that that’s the first thing that should be done with any child that is displaced, is to find a permanent home.”
Simone and her siblings moved to Houston where they remained for around eighteen months before their mom came to visit and convinced her eldest 2 children to move back home with her. As a result, authorities then encouraged Simone and her younger sister, Adria to do the same.
But sadly, it didn’t go to plan and eventually, Shannon’s parental rights were terminated leaving the 2 oldest siblings, Ashley and Tevin, to stayed in Ohio and be adopted by Ron Biles’ sister. 6-year-old Simone and Adria were adopted by Ron and Nellie.
“I was very, very blessed and fortunate,” Simone said. “I felt love, care. I was healthy. I was safe.”
Following that, Nellie and Ron largely became Simone’s parents. Over the years they’ve given her a home, love and support, and they’ve always been there to cheer her on. In fact, the Tokyo Olympics will be the first competition that Simone is competing in without them being there, and that’s only because in-person spectator are prohibited.
Nellies original worries about being unable to travel soon diminished as Simone took the pair around the country with her career.
“How sad that I thought that! But that was my reality at that time,” Nellie said. “And I cannot tell you how much traveling we have done, and this is on account of Simone being in our life. I’ve done so many different things, met so many people, that I would have never, ever been exposed to had we not had Simone in our lives.”
Ron and Nellie helped Simone as much as possible in life, so much so that she “never really cared to find out who my biological father was.”
“I’ve been so fortunate with everything that God has given me and all the tools of life,” Simone explained to USA TODAY Sports. “So I never really cared to find out who my biological father was, or really gain a close relationship with my biological mom. Which I’m sure she probably wanted.”
But, despite not wishing to contact her biological parents, it doesn’t stop Simone thinking about how different her life could have been had she not been adopted.
“It could have just been so different, and it’s hard to think what my life could have been because it’s not,” she said. “So I’m just very grateful for the opportunity and to be adopted by family and have a good head on my shoulders, but also have that guidance. And for them to take such a leap of faith.”
When Simone now visits with foster children with her sponsors to provide them with clothes and school supplies, she likes to remind them that “they’re not alone.”
“I know exactly how it is, and I know exactly how you feel being a foster kid,” the gymnast said. “I can be a voice for them. I can help them, and I can tell them that they’re not alone and that it’s going to be OK. That you can also still be great in the world.
“Being in foster care isn’t going to be your only title.”