Mother Up: A Memoir is the story of my transformation from the exhausted single mother of twins to an expert foster mom. With unflinching honesty, I reveal the challenges of parenting extraordinary children, six or eight at a time, including the empathy I developed for parents whose children were taken from them by the State of Oregon. The book opens with the ring of a telephone.
“Is that the bird-phone or the phone-phone?” I hollered.
I was so overwhelmed by the five children that I was parenting, I wasn’t certain if the sound came from the telephone or the African Grey parrot in the next room. Why, then, would I say yes to taking a sixth child, a stranger’s child, into our home? The story of my mothering thirty-two children over the next decade is intertwined with my own childhood. At five years old, I looked up, and my mother, brother and three half-sisters were gone. My father and his new wife (who became my adoptive mom) retrieved me just before first grade, and I was reunited with my brother. I did not see my first mom or half-sisters until I was grown.
As a foster mother, I felt frustrated about the way children languished in foster care while waiting for their parents to change. Thwarted by my inability to advocate effectively as a foster parent, I became a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA), a trained volunteer empowered by the court to speak on behalf of a child. In the process of that advocacy, I developed empathy for the parents whose children were removed, and through them, found deeper understanding about my own past. For the last nineteen years, I’ve served as a CASA for another two dozen abused and neglected children. For most of my adult life, I’ve been on the ground floor crying, cheering, and rallying support for the nearly five dozen children whose disrupted young lives tugged at my heart.
There are many books written from the perspective of the abused or neglected child, or the child who has been placed in foster care or an adoptive home. There are a few books written from the point of view of the foster mother, and fewer yet from the perspective of a child advocate. I bring the unique voice of the abandoned child, turned foster parent, turned advocate to the page. Mother Up: A Memoir is a personal story with universal appeal, underscoring how much we all need loving, competent mothers.
Deb is seeking representation for this manuscript and her current project, a nonfiction book on searching for strangers’ next of kin.