I can’t believe it! The blogger was wrong. I must be the only blogger to ever be wrong. Right?
OK, enough histrionics! But it is true. Because when I wrote the prior post, I did not have complete information. I did not realize that in addition to 5 adults, this family includes 10 biological children under age 18, 3 grandchildren and 5 foster children. I only had 2 foster children that I was aware of in the first post.
If you are as good at your math as I am, you will quickly see that
10 + 3 + 5 = 18.
So I admit my error. But I think it makes this mother/grandmother even more amazing.
I actually spoke to her again last evening, when she wasn’t at a noisy basketball game, and got a bit more information.
She told me she has always felt “a passion for kids.” That is why she had many children and continues to care for children. She talked about children being sacred in her culture and about how many are not being properly cherished.
The foster children came along unexpectedly. A cousin of her mother’s, a teenaged boy, had gotten in trouble and was kicked out of school. He thought it would get him out of going to school, since his family wouldn’t let him quit. But he got a surprise. Instead of just being free, he was in juvenile detention. They drove him from detention to school and back every day. The only thing he was allowed out for was going to school. A difficult lesson learned, the boy did a very smart thing. He told the authorities that he would stay with this mother and her family.
Faced with the lack of foster homes on the reservation and with the authorities telling her that they were this boy’s last chance to stay on the reservation, they agreed to take him in. He is doing well.
Soon afterward, they were approached to take in another young boy who had been in trouble in school. They agreed, knowing that this placement meant they would have to attend school, in the classroom, with the young man every day for months. He is doing well now, too.
A teenaged girl whom their daughter had met at a basketball game was the next addition. The girl had been raised by her grandmother, who died recently. She had no other family to take her in. So she was taken in by this warm, loving family.
They have also taken in a 2 year old and a 6 year old who were abandoned by their mothers. Unimaginable to this mom (and me) that a mother would just leave a child in an apartment and go away.
So now they are caring for 18 children. Yes, the young adults and older children do help with the young ones. But there has to be leadership, guidance, role models to create a successful family. This woman and her husband obviously provide those things.
The dad is an auto mechanic. He works part-time when he can get work. Although there are many vehicles that need repair on the reservation, most people don’t have the money to pay someone else to do it. There are not many auto service stations available, so there aren’t many jobs available in that line either. (Jobs – one of the biggest needs on the reservation.)
Mom had been working as a corrections officer locally. However, she is going to be laid off Jan 6, 2011 due to budget changes and department changes in the facility. Gratefully, she will be able to collect unemployment benefits. She receives a small stipend for the foster children. She does get food stamps because they are low income. (Yeah, and they have 23 folks in this home to feed!)
Speaking of the home, it is small. It does have a basement, which they have converted to a dormitory-style bedroom for the kids. They did add a shower to the basement but they currently have only 1 working bathroom!! The reason I know it is a small house is that she told me they can’t have a washer and dryer because their septic system is only large enough for a family of 4. They do laundry 3 times a week at a relative’s house. They still have to have the septic system pumped every 2-4 months!! I doubt that’s free service. (I don’t know about you, but mine, used by 2 people, goes about 2 years.)
The children are engaged in numerous activities, especially sports. Many of them play on basketball teams, one played football and there is a cross-country runner.
College is a hope for some. She has one daughter in college. The costs are very difficult for this large family to manage. But there should be a way for these kids to go to college if they desire it – it could only help the tribe.
There are also children with health issues. One of her daughters was born with a cleft palate. She has endured many surgeries, which required traveling to Chicago, Denver and other cities from the small town they live in on the reservation. The 6 year old foster child has speech problems. One of her teen sons is being tested for autism in the near future.
Throughout the conversation, however, the biggest impression I had was that this woman was full of joy, peace and love. I asked her how she was able to manage this household and she told me that her children “are content.” She explained that they accept what they have with gratitude and do not hunger for things they was some children do. They feel loved and their inner needs are met, so they are content – content with what they have, content to share what the have with each other and content that life will be okay.
That is an amazing thing for any child, but especially for those who live with so little, as the children on Pine Ridge Reservation do.
I told her she was amazing and inspirational to me. She didn’t get flustered. She wasn’t embarrassed. She humbly and quietly said, “Thank you.”
I will find a way to improve the life of this family somehow!
Perhaps you will help me find a way.