Who has ever sat second chair in the band, been a stagehand during a play, served as a substitute teacher or held the title of “assistant _______” fill in the blank? Over the years, I have held titles like Program Coordinator, Founder and Director, Manager, and even friend; just to name a few. Yet none of those titles or the many accolades that accompanied them contributed to my happiness. During a moment of “woe is me/ Lord what is wrong with me?”, I heard God whisper that what I sought was not in a title nor was it in my paid work experiences. After that moment, the light only seemed to shine when I was interacting, caring for, or communicating with adolescents. At every turn, I realized that I do my best work and appeared most happy when I serve the youth within the child welfare and juvenile delinquency systems. Although a very thankless job, working for the best interest of those youth somehow gave me life. It is where I learned not all moms are called mom.
There are many terms used when identifying a woman who is not a relative but has stepped in as a source of nurture and support – foster mom, mentor, advocate, mother figure, or even surrogate mom. In my life and work, I have chosen “surrogate mom”.
I remember my first government job; I worked for an adoption agency. At first glance, it did not appear as if my employer knew why she had hired me, but I later found out she could see my heart. I sat with every child who graced our agency. I also vetted the new families who had a desire to become foster/adopt parents.
My first adolescent adoption case is a special memory. I was no longer working in youth services, but one particular youth, jumped through a large number of hoops to find me. She wanted me to meet her adoptive parents before moving ahead with her adoption hearing. When I entered the courtroom, the judge paused the hearing to make sure I could take part. Autumn had explained to the judge that she needed final “approval” from the only worker that ever cared for or loved her; the judge made sure to include me when solidifying her forever home.
Then there was the time I received a letter from a youth. She had often made me wonder whether she wanted to survive her circumstances or more importantly if she would. The letter read; “I am sorry that I was such a horrible kid but thank you for hanging in there with me. Thank you for fighting for me”. The letter explained, she was completing her college practicum and hoped to soon be like me when working with her students. She made it! She survived her circumstances and had come out the better. I almost cried as this letter came at a time when I was at a crossroads. This letter caused me to look to the hills from which my help came and say, “God revive in me the desire to serve your children. Erase all the past hurt and experiences that so brazenly disturbs my vision and blocks my desire to walk in my calling”. I opened my eyes, said “amen”, but did not hear an answer or feel a jolt of newfound energy. I did, however, recognize the purest washing of peace.
A Mom to Many
In the time shortly after that, I saw God do exactly what I prayed for. I developed and founded a non-profit mentorship program for boys. A long-lost desire to serve in the academic arena resurfaced. I have been able to utilize the programming/curriculum I wrote for my boys program as the basis for the behavioral, emotional, and mental health services I provide in schools. Success has not evaded me by any means, but success has existed even in misery. Escaping the grasps of misery, my heart triumphs in the greatest joy one can imagine – showing up for the youth of my community.
You might ask what does it take to be a surrogate mother? It simply requires a willing heart with available space to welcome others. You must be willing to fill the void of a young man or young woman no matter what the cause. A surrogate mother unquestionably becomes the woman children acknowledge, respect, respond to, seek out and gravitate to. You willingly sign up to be the second chair in the band, an assistant coach, the stagehand during a play, or simply model behaviors that demonstrate care, accountability, courage, and motivation. Finally, the heart of a called surrogate mother must stand ready to actively serve children. Are you being called to be a surrogate mother – a foster mom, a mentor, and advocate, or a mother figure?