When Rhonda was a toddler her mother asked a neighbor to watch her while she went shopping. She never returned. Raised by her mentally ill, abusive grandfather and alcoholic grandmother, the only time Rhonda slept in a clean bed, had clean clothes, or enough to eat was the brief period of time she spent in a foster home.
When Rhonda was 8, the shack they lived in was destroyed by fire. Lacking insurance, they spent months homeless, cold, dirty, and hungry. Rhonda’s vivid memories of wearing the same flimsy sundress and dime store flip flop shoes every day from June until November,of that year, gave Rhonda an empathy that she says she couldn’t have acquired any other way.
At 15, Rhonda decided to free herself from abuse and dysfunction through emancipation. To do so, she needed: a job, a driver’s license, a car, an apartment, checking and savings accounts and good grades. With the help of a teacher and her first employer, Rhonda achieved all of these goals by 16, and was free.
Her first job was as a telemarketer in an insurance agency. After two years, at age 17, Rhonda had soaked up every bit of information she could and was ready to take the insurance agent license examination. However, regulations prohibited anyone under 18 from being licensed.
Rhonda appealed to the Insurance Commissioner to make an exception and was repeatedly rejected. Unwilling to accept defeat, Rhonda kept on appealing until she was finally granted her exception. Triumphant, she took and passed the test, becoming California’s youngest licensed insurance agent at 17.
At 27, after being reprimanded for signing up for insurance yet another home for abused children, a class of business her employer did not want to serve, Rhonda decided to open her own insurance agency. Against the advice of well meaning friends, Rhonda quit her job and started Child Welfare Insurance Services, a retail insurance agency founded solely to protect the good people and organizations that care for children and families. In 2008, Rhonda sold Child Welfare Insurance Services to Markel Insurance Company and became their National Child Welfare Specialist.
As a part of her life-long commitment to service, Rhonda devotes herself to helping current and former foster youth, foster, adoptive, and kinship parents, and victims of sex trafficking. Rhonda serves as a spokesperson for Vanguard University’s Global Center for Women and Justice and for Foster Care Alumni of America. She is a regular contributor to Foster Focus Magazine, Fostering Families Today Magazine, and Children’s Voice Magazine.
The non-profit Rhonda chairs is Successful Survivors Foundation, which was created to collaborate with public and private child welfare organizations, the faith-based community, business and community leaders, and schools throughout the country to provide the framework within which foster alumni can establish healthy relationships, mine the lessons out of their adversity, and apply those lessons to create their own personal and professional success.
Rhonda is happily married to Nick Sciortino. They live in Newport Beach, CA near their daughter, son-in-law, and two grandsons who are the joys of their lives.