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I lost my children to foster care and it took four years to get them back.
At HeartShare St. Vincent’s Services, I’ve had many roles, but one that I had for 8 years was training new foster parents. Foster parents are shocked when I tell them my story. They know me and they find it hard to believe that my children experienced the foster care system.
Here are some other things that I tell foster parents:
We love our children. Giving up your child is probably the greatest demonstration of love that a parent can muster. You are acknowledging that, at this moment, you can’t take care of your child. And that’s okay. You have to do right by your children, even if that means giving them up.
We were not taught how to parent. Sometimes, parents just don’t know what they’re doing. Perhaps, it’s just how we were disciplined as a child. Perhaps, it’s the culture and traditions we were surrounded by, like the hush-hush “do what I say” parenting style. In adulthood, we can react to those experiences by raising our children differently–or perhaps we don’t know how to escape it.
We’re only human. Because of childhood experiences, some people may inherently know how to be better parents than others, but we all have blood running through our veins and breathe the same air. Giving up our children is one of the most difficult moments in our lives. No one should ever judge what bought children into care.
We deserve a second chance. Our highest priority, as an organization and as people, is to protect children. Sometimes, that means removing children from their biological home home. But, if we are taking corrective action and doing everything possible to get back on track, we deserve a second chance.
Kathy Mizell currently is an Outreach Peer Navigator at HeartShare St. Vincent’s Services, where she has worked since 2009. She is a proud mother and grandmother. Kathy loves her children Ebony, 35, Kelsey, 27, Ronnie, 24, and Evonni, 18. Her son Darnell, who would have been 20 years old this year, is memorialized by Darnell’s Destiny, a HSVS group aimed to connect youth in foster care to their New York communities.