Carla Biro knew her mother and her father, but as she grew up on the south side of Chicago she was often on her own. Her father legally adopted her when she was 3 years old. Her mother was an addict whom she saw once a year.
When Biro got pregnant at age 15, she was happy because she thought that it meant she would have someone that would not leave. It didn’t happen in the “rosy” way she planned, and Biro struggled, but she didn’t stop. She didn’t get stuck. Through education, love and experience, she’s found home and love. As she raises a family, she’s now trying to help strengthen other families.
Biro, who is now the director of Gr8t Beginnings Coalition in Elkhart County, has spent most of her life trying to break her own generational patterns.
“I was raised by my paternal grandmother with support from my father,” she said. “My grandmother was 18 when my dad was born, my dad was 17 when I was born, and I was 16 when Josh was born. Therefore, my grandmother was a great-grandmother at the age of 51.”
As her parents bounced through relationships and job changes, as her mother struggled with drug use, Biro would see them both, but she was mostly raised by her grandmother. “I put the word ‘raised’ in quotations as she never really treated me as her own child,” Biro said. She had four other daughters, including one younger than Biro.
Her father traveled nationally and was home on weekends. Biro searched for someone to love her. “I was in and out of relationships with boys/men that I knew weren’t good for me, but at least I was getting the attention I craved,” she said.
When she got pregnant, she was advised to get an abortion, but came to Indiana to be with her mom, who had been off drugs for a few years. Her mother took her to Reason Enough To Act, a crisis pregnancy ministry, and Biro went to Sarah’s House until she was seven months along.
“I was loved unconditionally and shown the love of Christ,” Biro said.
Her grandmother invited her home, where she had a baby shower on her 16th birthday. Joshua was born soon after in April 1995.
“It was truly love at first sight. He was wanted and loved,” she said, though his father was never part of his life. And her own father wouldn’t speak to her because she kept the baby.
She lived in Chicago for a time before going to Mississippi with her grandmother. “I still jumped from guy to guy due to boredom and extremely low self-esteem,” she said. “The Muslim faith just was not working for me in my brokenness.”
During her senior year of high school, she and her father rekindled their relationship. She didn’t go back to Chicago because of gang violence but returned to Indiana with her son to be with her sister. Though supported heavily by her sister and family, she was depressed and had culture shock. She needed acceptance and support. After another broken and abusive relationship, she went to Safe Haven Women’s Shelter and entered the Elkhart County Wraparound Program, which literally enfolded her with love-filled relationships. That helped break cycles. She went to Goshen College, earning a bachelor’s degree in education in 2006. In 2009, she got a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction and an administrative license in 2018.
In 2015, she married a man, Mike Biro, who pursued her and loves her.
“It has been a hard journey and I’m sure God is still writing,” she said. “My son has suffered through the many hardships of me learning to be who I was created to be. I learned that hurt people … hurt people. However, he is alive, has no children, and has independently lived on his own for five years. I have five additional children that with each passing season of life, it is evident that my growth in parenting is radiating from the decisions they make and the amazing adults they are becoming.”
Elkhart County has the resources to help people break cycles, but it also takes individual effort to change lives, Biro said. “If you want to change your community, ask those in need what they need,” she said.
Relationships can change a community, but it’s daunting and challenging to offer help to someone who truly needs it. She names people who helped her as she took a few steps forward and a couple back.
“Mentoring is not for six weeks or a year. It’s not a make yourself feel good thing or scratching an itch,” she said. “This investment is long-term.”
The return on that investment can be even longer term if a family finds its way toward health.
Marshall V. King is a freelance writer and journalist based in Goshen. He wrote this on behalf of Fathers Matter Forum and the Community Foundation of Elkhart County.
Second Fathers Matter Forum is May 7
Who: Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family will be the keynote speaker at the second forum, which is co-sponsored by DJ Construction and the Community Foundation of Elkhart County. Biro and others will participate and the public is invited.
When: May 7. Dessert will be served at 6:30 p.m. with the program starting at 7 p.m.
Where: Center Six One Five, 2707 C.R. 15, Elkhart.
Registration: Registration is requested by going to https://djconstruction.com/fathersmatter/
This event is free, however, any donations given will go to The Faithful Dads Fund at Community Foundation of Elkhart County.