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Queens-raised rapper DMC is a foster care role model

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Darryl McDaniels, better known as DMC from seminal 1980s hip-hop group Run-D.M.C., had a thing or two to tell children in foster care, like how they should not let their situation define how they see their future.

He should know because he has been there, too.

"I was a foster kid. I was a ward of the state. I was adopted when I was 1 month old," he told six children currently in the care of Little Flower Children and Family Services, one of the country's oldest foster and adoption agencies. "I want to communicate the message that family isn't always about flesh and blood."

Little Flower partnered with Heart Gallery NYC, a nonprofit that promotes adoption by creating professional photo portraits for display of children and teens in state care, to hold an event called "Kings and Queens for a Day" at the Queens Center Mall in Elmhurst. It brought the six children to the borough by limousine and gave them the red carpet treatment at the shopping center last Thursday.

McDaniels was the keynote speaker and vocalist Jeannette Bayardelle, who stars as Celie in "The Color Purple" on Broadway, sang for the group assembled in the shopping center's food court.

"I found out I was adopted at age 35," said McDaniels, now 44. "I wrote a book in 2001 because nobody knows the little boy Darryl who became DMC. I called my parents because I needed to know three things: What hospital was I born in, how much did I weigh and what time was I born? An hour later, my mother and father called me back and told me I was adopted from foster care when I was a month old."

He said children who grow up in foster care often lack a sense that anyone is fighting for them and feel that since their birth mother or family gave them up for adoption, they must not be wanted.

"We need to tell birth mothers that they are giving a possibility for greatness," he said.

After his parents' revelation, McDaniels said he began to wonder about his biological mother. He sought out his birth mother and found out that "she's just like me. We like the same foods, we each have tattoos that mean 'beauty.'"

Of the six children in the front row, McDaniels asked: "Do you know who these kids are? The next great writers, journalists, doctors. Athletes and rappers, those come second."

Fernando, 16, who lives at Little Flower's residence in Central Islip, L.I., kept his baseball cap pulled low during the event, but perked up after McDaniels spoke.

"Now I won't have to be worried because I'm a foster kid," he said before he went to meet the music legend.

For more information, visit www.heartgallerynyc.org or www.littleflower.org.

Reach reporter Alex Christodoulides by e-mail at achristodoulides@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 155.

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