Tiffany Haddish Grew Up In Foster Care

I discovered that comedian Tiffany Haddish grew up in foster care. Though foster care is NOT part of my personal experience, I have learned a lot about it from my all things adoption group and I once read the personal memoir of a woman – Foster Girl by by Georgette Todd – that is a nightmare of a story but that does have a happy ending – thankfully. Anyway, I went looking for Haddish’s own story of foster care. I owe much of today’s blog to the story in Simplemost.

Haddish spent part of her childhood in foster care. As I often read is recommended if someone really wants to adopt, she has spoken about adopting older children who are in foster care. I had already learned that babies and younger children tend to be adopted out of the system more easily than older kids, and generally, the older a child is, the harder it is for them to get adopted. Haddish would like to help an older child who might otherwise be passed over by other families.

She says, from having spent many years in the foster care system, that she knows firsthand how difficult it can be. “You’re dropped in these strangers’ houses, you don’t know these people, these people don’t know you, you don’t know if they’re gonna hurt you, if they’re gonna be kind, you don’t have a clue what’s going on.”

When Haddish was a child, her mother was in a serious car accident that left her with many injuries and altered her personality, causing her to become erratic and violent — and unable to care for the kids. Haddish, who is the eldest of five, was 12 years old when she and her siblings entered foster care, and she remained in foster care until she she became an adult and was emancipated from the system.

In foster care, the comedian spent years moving from home to home, with all of her belongings in a trash bag. She shares, “I remember when I got my first suitcase, I felt like I was a traveler, like I had a purpose, like I’m a person, like I’m not garbage. I got this — it’s mine, and my things are in here, and wherever I go I can take this with me and I’m going somewhere.”

Haddish tells her difficult but inspiring stories in her book, “The Last Black Unicorn.” Here is the interview of Tiffany Haddish about her book from The Daily Show with Trevor Noah.

Mirabai Starr in Wild Mercy

Mirabai Starr with daughter Jenny

I am in the midst of reading Mirabai Starr‘s book – Wild Mercy – and today learned she adopted her children. Hers is a multiracial family. She had made the decision in her youth due to a concern about overpopulation (a concern I shared at one point in my own life). The looming shadow of the climate crisis was another motivation.

Between them, Mirabai and her husband, Jeff, have four grown daughters and six grandchildren. Mirabai’s youngest daughter, Jenny, was killed in a car accident in 2001 at the age of fourteen. On that same day, Mirabai’s first book, a translation of Dark Night of the Soul, was released.

Mirabai writes – I am a mother who has lost her child, Jenny Starr. In the midst of terrible beautiful unbridled mothering I am suddenly childless. I cannot find my way through a world that does not have my girl at its center. I do not understand. I don’t get why you did not make it through the hurricane season of adolescence, why the vessel of our love, of our ferociously devoted love, did not carry you safely back to me.

Her book Caravan of No Despair is the story of her journey through the grief of this tragedy. She has written in an essay Why Mother’s Day Is Still Special To Me that she found her daughter on her thirtieth birthday. “It was early May and we drove to Albuquerque from our home in the mountains of northern New Mexico to meet Jenny at her foster home in the South Valley. I had been prepped for the encounter, and had cultivated a degree of reserve so that I would neither overwhelm the child nor give her false hope in case it was not a good fit and we wouldn’t be following through.”

She continues, “Most children in the adoption system have been abused, neglected, abandoned, and have serious trust issues. I envisioned Jenny as a wild bird landing for a moment in my hand. I must not scare her off. We pulled up to the dilapidated adobe and parked at the curb—my soon-to-be ex-husband, my older daughter, Daniela, whom we had adopted two years earlier on her eleventh birthday, and me. I stepped out of the car and there she was, a toddler on a tricycle, peddling toward us with a shy smile. Look, Mommy, her face said to me, I can ride my bike.

A week later, on Mother’s Day, we brought her home. Jenny’s social worker met us halfway, at the Dunkin’ Donuts in Santa Fe. Jenny clutched the paper bag containing all of her possessions—a couple of pairs of pants that were too small and a flowered blouse that was too big (the new jacket conspicuously missing). She had a “memory book” put together by the staff at her foster home. It contained a picture of a little black baby cut from an ad in a magazine because Jenny did not have any real baby pictures and the Gerber child looked a little, but not very much, like her (and not a thing like me).

Jenny herself dubbed Mother’s Day as our “anniversary.” Every year on that day we celebrated with cake, mostly on our own, as the man who was supposed to be her father never was, and her sister became a teenage mother early on and left home.

The year I turned forty, Jenny turned fourteen. One night in a fit of teenage rebellion, Jenny took my car for a joy ride and never returned. She crashed on the downward slope of a steep mountain pass and died alone under a full moon. It never crossed my consciousness that I would outlive my child or that Mother’s Day would become an unbearable reminder that the daughter into whom I poured the full cup of my love would leave this world, and that I would shatter.

On a personal note – my then teenage daughter once went for a joyride in the middle of the night with a sleep-over friend and they wrecked her step-mother’s car. She called me wanting a plane ticket to Missouri. I knew that her dad and step-mother would look here first and that she needed to face the responsibility for what she had done. It took my parents intervention (who were still in the same city) to keep her from running away (which was my primary concern). I am so grateful upon reading this that she at least survived. It could have turned out tragically.

Self Indulgent Adoptive Parents

The lead-in to today’s blog expresses an opinion about this couple in my “all things adoption” group.

This is such a self indulgent, sad article to read. It was all focused on what they wanted, conveniently wrapped up as “Gods plan.” They wanted African American twin boys?! They treated adoption like a menu they could pick from, tailor made to suit their requirements. The part that was particularly telling was when she said “one birth mom got in a car accident on the way to the hospital and was in a coma, it was not looking good for us.” An expectant mother has an accident and goes into a coma and all she could think about is – it wasn’t looking good for us?!

This adoptive parent has a huge following on Instagram and regularly uses her children’s stories and adoptee status to promote the brands she partners with. I often wonder what will we hear from these children (and there are many cases of adoptive children being used to promote adoptiove parent platforms), when they grow up.

In one of the comments is a screenshot from the adoptive mother. I don’t even had words for how self-centered the adoptive mother is and yet obviously aware of what is happening to the birth mother – all at the same time. Here are her own words about it.

“The day I posted about bringing the baby home, I explained that those few days in the hospital were hard. There were so many comments on my remarks about why it was hard.”

“Here’s why – two pictures were taken that day the baby was born. One is of me holding the baby with tears in my eyes with the birth mother being held by a nurse because she has tears in her eyes also. I will admit that I was crying because my baby was finally here and yet, I knew at the same time that someone else’s heart was being torn apart.”

What kind of insensitivity acknowledges this so matter of factly. To the adoptive mother’s perspective, the birth mother is only crying because she knows her baby is “where she is supposed to be” (and that is with the adoptive mother – which is plainly NOT, in the natural order of things, true).

She admits that “adoption is every emotion in the book” but admits that “those few days while the baby and the birth mother both remained in the hospital were hard” (and I would suppose, hardest on the birth mother).

She is keeping those pictures for the baby when she is older so that she can know that her original mother’s heart broke. Though the adoptive mother’s perspective is – “so the baby’s heart would not have to be” ? Really ? Staying with her original mother would have been heartbreaking for the child ? This is what entitlement looks like – your baby is better off with me because I am better than you.

The adoptive mother admits that adoption isn’t fair and that it’s hard but she still claims it is beautiful and personal – and like all adoptive parents want to believe – a selfless act on the part of the mother.