'Dallas' Star Charlene Tilton Opens Up About Her Difficult Time in Foster Care

by Raphael Chestang 6:17 PM PDT, June 29, 2015
Playing 'Dallas' Star Charlene Tilton Opens Up About Her Difficult Time in Foster Care

As a teen actor who seemingly had it all, few knew about the pain Dallas star Charlene Tilton says she was secretly hiding.

"I was in the foster care system from the time I was 3 or 5 years old to the time I was 8 years old, and my mother was mentally ill," Tilton tells ET. "My mom was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. [She was] thinking that the CIA was monitoring her from the television set, or that she was being followed."

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With her mother institutionalized and her father out of the picture, Tilton bounced around between different foster homes, where she says she experienced mental and physical abuse. But, she recalls one happy moment with her mom that gave her hope.

"My mother got a little two-day furlough from the institution, and she was allowed to come and see me and she took me to a movie theater to see The Sound of Music," Tilton says. "I was a little kid sitting with a mother who was mentally ill going from one place to another, taking my belongings in a little trash bag, and this movie gave me hope."

Today, Charlene is using her voice to help others. She's performing in the special benefit show, Voices for the Voiceless: #Stars4FosterKids, on June 29 in New York City as presented by Seth Rudetsky, James Wesley and

"These kids need a home," Charlene said. "They need someone that they could share their problems with, their joys, their struggles. It's important."

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Voices for the Voiceless raises awareness about children in foster care, especially those between the ages of 10 to 21, who are often considered "unadoptable" due to their age.

Tina Fey, Kristin Chenoweth, Tituss Burgess, Sutton Foster, Megan Hilty, Rosie O'Donnell and Caroline Rhea will also join Charlene on stage.