My Mother’s Resiliency Saved Me From the Scars of Family Separation

Decades ago, as my mom lay recovering from labor in a San Francisco hospital, a group of social workers gently suggested she consider giving me and my sister up for adoption. At first the arrangement was framed as temporary—a fancy version of foster care by a wealthy white family apparently eager to look after a set of brown babies. As they saw it, my mother was woefully ill-equipped to care for her new twins. After all, she was white and Jewish, my dad was black and Baptist, and my parents were unmarried—and would forever stay that way.

Even in the City of Love (during the era of love) it was assumed my mom—despite being educated, employed, and well past 30—wouldn’t be able to raise us on her own. Our “best interests,” these women insisted, lay with them and the government and a future family they assured her would take good care of us. Or at least better care of us than they figured she could.

…She described these social workers as an insistent bunch who paid her repeated visits—including a few after she took us home to her tiny studio apartment at the foot of San Francisco Bay. 

…She instinctively knew that their assurances of “short-term” and “temporary” care were completely bogus—that full-fledged adoption was the ultimate goal, and she was having none of it. Still, I’m sure they made some headway, what with their promises of the grand homes and two-parent lifestyles my mother knew she could never deliver. Sow the seeds of doubt hard and long enough and you can gaslight even the toughest among us.

My Mother’s Resiliency Saved Me From the Scars of Family Separation


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