For the last 12 years, my mama has been a foster and adoptive parent on paper. Before that, she co-parented her siblings with her mother Audrie “Bubbie” Lowe. My mama and I co-parent now and it has been a challenge because I’m no longer living in the house. Most of what I do is from afar and that distance is overwhelming. It shuffles priorities, makes them feel like transactions instead of engagement and connection. I miss my siblings.My mama was the first person who taught me about restorative justice, accountability, connection and action. She didn’t use those words. Doesn’t use them now. And she’s the closest, most consistent model I’ve seen. We are raising 7 children between the ages of four and fourteen. Nicari and Nicare are 7 year old twins who came into our care almost six years ago. I remember how tiny they were and how the social worker who brought them to us that night said that they were less than a pound each when they were born. They could fit in each of my hands.
Black babies cost less to adopt.
On July 22nd, 2015 at 2:33pm Nicari and Nicare were officially adopted. Bubbie was here for it and she isn’t now. I won’t go into detail about what condition they were in when they arrived and I won’t share the condition of my other siblings. Those are not my stories to tell.
Lisa (my mama) is someone who has taught me about community, honesty and resources. When parents (often single Black and brown mamas) lose custody of their children, she is their resource whether the children are placed in her home or not. She directs parents to child and family services trainings through HeadStart, Kaiser, The Contra Costa Childcare Council and The Regional Center. She helps them understand and fill out paperwork and doesn’t judge them. She listens, consoles, reaches people who have fallen between the cracks. I admire her for being a place of comfort for both the child(ren) and the parent. It’s a hopscotch game that I never built the capacity for.
Some of the biological parents have lashed out at Lisa for gaining custody of their children when they could not. They’ve accused her of wanting to take their children away, though she had no involvement and knowledge of their existence before becoming aware of the “case” and the children being placed in her home.
In the last 12 years, there have been over 20 children in our care. Some of them left and connected back with their biological parents. Mostly with the help and support of Lisa. Some have been sent to other foster homes. Others were adopted.
Sometimes we are devastated by it, sometimes we’re grateful. Our family reels for a while after. Sometimes it lasts for months. Sometimes years. Our sister Izzy (Isabel) was 3 when she was adopted by a white family over my mama. Our family is still mourning Izzy’s absence. She never wanted to go with that family and we believe that the social worker thought the family was a better cultural fit because Izzy is a light skinned Latina and we are Black. We fought the decision but ultimately it wasn’t up to us. This was four years ago. She had the closest relationship with our sister, Amira.
Bubbie also informally adopted a few of my aunt’s friends whose parents were struggling to raise them and were at capacity. I’m grateful to have a family who doesn’t distinguish blood from connection, doesn’t say “half-sibling”, words like “adoption”, “foster” and “biological.” Some of my siblings have two mamas, some have one. All of us share community. We have aunts and uncles, grandparents, cousins that exist beyond space, time and definition.
There are folk doing this work that we never acknowledge.
My mama is amazing at holding nuance. At care. At witnessing.
My work is never “mine”.
It does not belong to me.
And, I may inform it.
I may use what my ancestors have given me to describe it.
I may pull from those living and dead and not alive yet.
I do not own it.