This is dedicated to my mother, who is the best foster mother in the whole wide world.
I remember the moment my mother came to me and told me she wanted to be a
foster mother. She went through the training our state required and encouraged my
father to be a part of her journey. My mother, who was dancing on the precipice of
her 60s had no business being a mother again. She raised 3 children, who at first
glance, seemed to be thriving members of society. At second glance, her 3 children,
were thriving and having children of their own. Yet we still needed her.
Mom explained to me, that we had our wings. She had done the hardest part of
motherhood by shepherding us into adulthood. I do not want to diminish the fact
that we had the luck of having two parents who could provide for us both financially
and emotionally. We were given an advantage that not all children experience.
This heart-to-heart conversation with my mother quelled the ambient jealousy of
her becoming a foster parent. At that point, I leaned into her mission and
inadvertently became a support system for a vigilant woman who wanted to make a
difference in this world.
My parents were not looking to become adoptive parents. In fact, it was quite the
opposite. They were looking to give respite to disadvantaged parents who did not
have the tools to adequately support their child’s welfare and growth. This was a
mission I could joyfully support. My brothers and their wives inched their way into
the ecosystem my mother led with unabashed optimism.
Mom and dad were trained, certified, and had a pile of paperwork proving their
proficiency as foster parents. As they waited to hear of possible placements with
child protective services, the phone was silent. Mom researched and began to
understand the inadequacies of child protective services.
According to an article by Mother Jones, they confirm the fact that state-mandated foster care errs on
separating families rather than rehabilitating the family unit. Mother Jones reports that they respond inadequately and inhumanely to our society’s abysmal failures. Far from promoting the well-being of children, the state weaponizes children to threaten families, to scapegoat parents for societal harm to
their children, and to buttress the racist status quo. “Policing” is the word that
captures best what the system does to America’s most disfranchised families. It
subjects them to surveillance, coercion, and punishment. It is a family-policing
system. And the only way to stop the destruction caused by family policing is to stop
policing families—to abolish the system that tears families apart.
The black-and-white facts persuaded this ardent critic. I was aware that this is a
critical juncture where mom became a Safe Families volunteer. With one fell swoop,
my parents opened their doors to marginalized families who needed time to figure
their situation out.
The first little boy who came into their (our) lives was Marry. Marry was a sweet little
boy, who had two broken legs and a mother who was trying to figure it out. Mom
toted Marry around in a red wagon so he could see the sights around him. Marry was
a happy little boy, who screamed with delight when he rolled around on the floor
playing with his trucks. His heart was contagious.
This is the Safe-Families effect. The ripple effect of unbridled joy that seeps into all
those who care for these children is miraculously changed. And, as a collective, we
experienced bittersweet joy when my parents returned the baby to their home.
Tinged with selfish sorrow, we quickly recognized that each family reunion was our
Fast forward twelve years later, thousands of diapers changed, countless miles of
stroller walks, and 50 babies graced our presence, we don’t question the
“system” of providing a safe family for mothers and fathers who are struggling.
There is a season for all, and the season of selfless caretaking never ceases.
Learn More About Safe Families Here: SAFE FAMILIES
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