A doctor…a lawyer…an actress…a queen! I couldn’t wait to see what my new daughter would become. As an African-American woman, and the mother of four biological children, I wanted to adopt African-American children and raise them to be well-loved, confident, productive members of society. After months of waiting, the call came at last. It was finally happening. My dream was coming true.
It had been so long since I had heard from the Department of Children’s Services that I had almost given up hope. It seemed I was never going to have another daughter. My biological daughter, having grown up with three brothers, had been waiting for a sister for more than three years.
I answered the phone on the third ring, not at all expecting to hear what I did. The social worker on the other end told me that there was a little girl with no place to go.
Every maternal instinct in my body was immediately aroused. Details were sketchy: She was African-American, potty trained, and her name was Faith. Barely three years old, she had already been in 11 different foster homes, and needed to be placed within the hour. Would I be interested? Of course! Faith was coming home.
Small Girl, Big Surprise
I ran out to buy things for her room, including a beautiful picture of an African-American ballerina. There was no time to tell my other four children, who were in school, that their new sister was on her way. Alone, I arranged stuffed toys on the bed and hung the picture on the wall. When everything was ready, I washed my face, brushed my hair, and headed to the front room to sit down and catch my breath.
Unable to relax, I waited anxiously by the window. After what seemed like hours, a white van pulled up. My brown-skinned angel had arrived. But wait! The social worker was carrying a small, chubby child with big blue eyes, pale skin, and curly blond hair. She had puffy cheeks and seemed very frightened. I was scared too. I felt her pain deep in my heart, but I was confused. Faith was supposed to be African-American.
Her social worker explained that, although there was some doubt about her paternity, both parents were listed as being African-American. Before paternity tests could be run, the father of record died of a heart attack at age 38. What was I going to do? I could not teach this child about a culture that I was not a part of. Yet, when I knelt down and looked into those piercing, blue eyes, my heart told me none of that mattered. If I turned Faith away, who would love and care for her? Where would she build her memories? Who would be her forever family?
Maybe I was not meant just to raise an African-American child to be proud of her culture. Perhaps I was to teach this child, who blended many cultures, how to love herself and others. Perhaps all she required of me was constant love and stability. Then, out of the blue, Faith made the decision for me. She said, “Hi, Mama.”
The first few days were hard for Faith. Every night she cried uncontrollably and had violent temper tantrums. I’m sure she was afraid of what the next day might bring. In fact, every time we left the house, she ran to get her yellow toothbrush, just in case she wasn’t coming back. Her only possessions were the clothes and shoes she was wearing and that toothbrush.
I began to add to her possessions. How she treasured her new pink slippers! She slept peacefully now, on her beloved Barbie pillowcase. And she adored the little purple stroller, which allowed her to lavish on her dolls the affection she had been denied in infancy.
One day she came to me and said she needed more dolls. Ridiculous! I told her. You already have so many dolls. Faith explained that none of her dolls had social workers. I knew then that it was time for me to make this child a legal and permanent member of my family. Faith had done nothing to deserve being uprooted whenever it was no longer convenient for her to live with a family. I wanted to ensure she would never have to move again.
Safe at Last
Today, Faith is an outspoken first grader who can never find her toothbrush. Her dolls have taken a back seat to her many friends. Her three big brothers and her big sister love her! She always has so much to tell me about her day, about how her favorite color is purple, and how she loves her ballet lessons. Most of all, when she closes her eyes at night, she is not worried about skin or hair color. All she knows is that she is home, in her very own bed, with her family that loves her.
How empty our lives would have been without this magical little girl! Though we later learned that Faith’s mother and grandparents were definitely African-American, that puzzle had long ceased to matter. Instead of adopting a child whom I could teach about life, I was matched with a child who taught me many things about myself, about family, and what is really important. She is my special angel…my princess…indeed, a beautiful queen. I will always be thankful for Faith.