Brittney Kalmas
Director, Behavior Management Services

As Director of Behavior Management Services, Brittney oversees the development and implementation of behavioral strategies and interventions with clients and families in their natural environments. She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology and sociology from Indiana University and a master’s in social work from Indiana University. Brittney is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Registered Behavioral Consultant.

The Art of Independence

2 minute read

If Mihaela Morgan wanted to evoke your pity, she probably could. After all, her early life story reads like a list of worst-case scenarios.

Her first four years were divided between an orphanage and foster care in Romania. Along the way, she suffered trauma and neglect that left her with delays and visual impairments, and barely able to speak her native language. As she neared an opportunity to come to America to live with an adoptive family, the Romanian government started to shut down international adoptions.

And that’s where the story takes a turn toward best-case scenario – and where Mihaela started her trajectory toward being someone not to be pitied, but to be honored.

One of the last 45 children to be adopted before Romania did indeed close the door on international adoptions, Mihaela was welcomed into the home of Kathy and Gary Morgan of Greenwood in 2002.

Mihaela holding her certificate of Citizenship
Mihaela receiving her Certificate of Citizenship in March 2017.

Mihaela has made the most of this turn for the better. Although school was a struggle at first – mostly because of her autism and delays caused by the trauma she endured as an infant – but Mihaela showed promise early on. By fourth grade, she was reading at a high-school level. She worked hard. She responded well to one-on-one support and to the guidance of a couple of really great teachers.

And she excelled. By the time Mihaela received her diploma from Center Grove High School in 2016 she had already earned college credits. Having always wanted to work in the medical field to help people, she got a job at St. Vincent in patient transport, and that led to her interest in patient care. Eventually, she began taking courses to be a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA). Now, just a couple of weeks before her 21st birthday, she’s finishing up her course work and preparing to take the state CNA exam this month. When she’s not studying, this gifted artist creates her own cartoon characters inspired by her love of anime and video games like Kingdom Hearts.

Mihaela's artwork
A recent piece of artwork by Mihaela, drawn on her computer.

Unless, of course, she’s being honored in a stadium filled with thousands of people. That’s where Mihaela was on Nov. 11, attending the Indianapolis Colts-Jacksonville Jaguars game as a Damar MVP. She and the Morgans got to the game by limo, and they enjoyed on-field access before the game and a visit with Blue, the Colts’ mascot, all as part of the package put together by Damar to honor one student as an MVP for each home game this season.

While it might seem remarkable for a young woman with so much hardship in her life to strive so hard and achieve so much, Mihaela actually represents the forces that make many of the people Damar serves so special. Despite the incredible challenges they face, most of them are remarkably optimistic and ambitious. And most of them, like Mihaela, have one central objective: to live a more independent life.

Mihaela’s story should be an inspiration to us all, especially to those of us who, frankly, don’t face half the hardships she has faced. After all, if she can overcome her worst-case scenario beginnings to emerge as someone who is focused on helping others, then just about anything is possible.