I lost my kids 6 years ago. On April 8th 2008 I went to court for a removal of the kids. My kids were 7, 6 and 2. That was basically the worst day of my life.
When I first had my kids I was living with my mother. Then, when my youngest was born, I went to the shelter with her father. We got an apartment together. But then he went to jail.
It was hard for me without any support. I guess I was not ready to be a single mother.
My kids came into care for emotional neglect and lack of me doing laundry, cleaning my house and taking my kids to school on time. I wasn’t going to bed early and putting my partying to the side for my kids.
When my kids came into care, the agency made me do mental therapy. For whatever reason, I needed meds. Three months after that, I was facing an eviction from my apartment. It was so stressful that I developed a mild stroke.
I also noticed that I started doing a lot of drinking and that’s never a good thing. It was because I was starting to believe that I had no reason to live anymore. I had already lost my kids.
I Always Felt Alone
I myself grew up without my mother. I was with my grandmother since I was 3 weeks old. She raised me like my uncles and aunts were my siblings. All my life I called my mother Malicia and my grandmother “Mommy.’ I wasn’t being rude or disrespectful. As a child, you call it like you see it.
It was a little hard for me, though, because I believe that every child belongs with their mother. My grandmother made sure to never tell me anything bad about my mother, but I knew she was out there doing drugs. As a child growing up, seeing your mother every day and just walking past her, it’s kind of weird. It actually felt really crazy, thinking whether this person you see every day knows you are her child. I always felt like I was alone.
Four months after my kids were removed from my home, my aunt and her husband agreed to take my kids and I was able to see my kids throughout the week as well as on the weekend. Two years ago, they moved upstate, but I still visit every weekend.
My oldest child, Jahmil, is 13 years old, and this little boy is every bit of me. He loves to laugh and joke. He always gets good grades in school, and that’s the most important thing.
My younger son, Jahkell, is 12 years old. He is such a loving child. He always wants hugs and kisses and that makes me feel good. They’ve been away from my for 6 years and they still love me. Jahkell also made it on the honor role three months straight! I’m very proud of him.
My daughter, Shalesse, is the baby. At 8 years old, she acts like a little old lady and has a mind of her own. Shalesse doesn’t follow anyone, and I pray that she stays that way.
Not Enough Time
My kids are a major part of my life even though they’re still in foster care. I travel there every Saturday. I get up at 4:30 a.m. and leave my house at 5:30 a.m. I like to get the 7:15 bus. Then I get back on the 4:45 bus back to New York. I also continue to call my kids often.
During our visits, my kids and I play, talk, do homework, eat and laugh together. Still, I feel like the visits are not enough. I only see them for a few hours. Since the visits are at my aunt’s house, and my kids don’t come to visit me, I can’t take them places and be on my own with them. I feel like a visitor, not their mother.
Over the years I’ve done a lot to get my kids home. I had to take mental health therapy every week, parenting classes, anger management, support group. I even did extra services just because I want to. I really wanted my kids back home so my life could be complete again.
I learned a lot in parenting class. I learned about having patience and talking more than yelling. I also learned that life is a cycle. You have to break the chain if you want your kids to be better than you. I really want that for my kids.
But last month, my case planner and the law guardian told me that my kids don’t want to come home. They didn’t give too many details. My case planner just said that she spoke to my kids and they stated to her that they don’t want to live with me.
In the meeting, I just sat there.
I left the meeting feeling like I did everything for nothing.
Hurt and Angry
In the days right after my conversation with the case planner, I felt so hurt and angry. Part of me wanted to curse out the case planner. Part of me wanted to give up on my kids and stop fighting. Part of me wanted to fight harder and do anything it takes to get them back home. I just didn’t know what do anymore.
I had always thought my kids wanted to come home. They tell me yes. I said to myself, “I really don’t know what I did to my kids to make them feel like this about me.”
At the same time, I know that my aunt can provide for my kids better than me right now. I also know that I’m still not ready to have my kids back. I don’t have my life together. I live with my cousin, and it’s not a place where my kids can live with me.
My kids are happy living with my aunt. I’ve started telling myself, “That’s all that matters to me.” I even started thinking that, if they want to stay with my aunt, I could move closer to them. If that’s what would make them happy, then that’s what I’d be willing to do.
‘You’ll Still Be Their Mother’
In New York City, there’s an option called KinGap, which allows a foster parent who is a family member to become the legal guardian. Unlike adoption, guardianship doesn’t require that a parent lose her rights.
When the case planner first offered the KinGap, I did not want to take it. I thought it was like signing over my rights to my aunt. I did not want to lose my rights as my children’s mother.
It helped me calm down when I spoke with the parent advocate at my agency, Ms. Peggy Gibbs. Ms. Gibbs explained it to me better. She told me, “You will still be their mother.”
I also realized that I needed the case planner more than she needed me. When you need somebody, you have to be nice to them even though you might not always agree with things they say and do. Speaking to Ms. Gibbs, I calmed down.
Agreeing to Guardianship
On Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2015 I had a meeting to talk about KinGap. My case planner explained it to me again. I felt more comfortable when I understood that my rights would not be terminated.
My aunt would just have guardianship. My kids could stay with my aunt and go to school, and I could still visit them and they could visit me. My aunt and uncle and I even agreed that I could have my kids on weekends, birthdays and even holidays. At that point, I agreed to sign the papers.
Still Their Mother
I am very excited that my case is finally about to close and ACS will be out of my life forever. The hard part is feeling like I let my kids down.
I am very worried about whether my aunt and uncle will really let my kids and me visit like they said. Last weekend, they were supposed to bring my kids to a family party, and they didn’t arrive until the last half hour. I was so disappointed.
My hope is that, after my aunt has guardianship, I can see my children more. I want my kids to stay with me so I can get to know them more.
I know that I’m not going to stop fighting to be my kids’ mother whether they come home or not. I only want what’s best for my kids. I’m glad that, even though my kids have been in foster care, they still call me “Mommy” and they know that I’m their mother.