Mom's second chance - Mother on road to redemption showers kids in state care with love
Jamaica’s chief child welfare organisation estimates that fewer than 40 per cent of parents maintain a relationship with their offspring in state care, and 29-year-old Shellian Somans is among them.
The mother of five has won the admiration of representatives from the Child Protection and Family Services Agency, who took three of her five children away from her two years ago because she lacked the financial resources to care for them. Despite the blow, the mother visits them regularly and is determined to uplift herself to reclaim her kids.
Somans’ children were taken away because her five-year-old son went missing when she left him with his two older brothers and younger sister to go and earn an income so that she could provide them with food. Her son was missing for three days.
Somans can relate to all mothers who feel that they have short-changed their families, made bad choices, and live with the guilt of those decisions. But Somans said that despite the judgement of others, she is on the road to redemption and wants to provide her kids, aged one to 15, with the traditional childhood they long for.
“I was home one day and nothing was actually there for them to really eat,” she told The Sunday Gleaner yesterday.
“I left them there. It wasn’t even for a long period of time, it was just for an hour, and when I came back, he (the five-year-old son) wasn’t home. I looked for him like for three days, no eating, no sleeping,” recounted Somans.
Haunted by murder stories
The mother said she prayed daily for the safe return of her son, although stories of children going missing and being found murdered haunted her, causing her to plunge into depression.
“I was just like, ‘God, if him just come inna the yard, even if him hand bruk or him foot bruk, I wouldn’t feel any way, but just don’t let mi find him dead,” she pleaded.
Her prayers were answered, and the mother still tears up when she remembers the day she found her son.
“I was coming home from the shop and somebody told me that they found him. I dropped eggs, frankfurters, everybody. I didn’t business about anything that day,” she said.
“I just ran, grab him, hug him up, kiss him, and that was the first time I really felt like a mom, when I found him,” she said.
Somans’ mother died from a terminal illness when she was just eight years old and she went to live with relatives afterwards. A year later, she was removed from the home and placed in state care because she was deemed to be in need of care and protection. At 14, she left the home after becoming pregnant with her first son.
She visits her children almost every Sunday and has since enrolled in a private institution, where she is currently pursuing certification to become a practical nurse. The aim is to get a stable job, have her children return home, and be there physically and emotionally for them every day.
“They cried and I cried when I realised that they weren’t coming home. It was like my whole world just blew up,” she said.
Well taken care of
But as Somans sat on the veranda of the Kingston-based children’s home where her children reside and watched them play yesterday, all she could do was smile.
“At the end of the day, I am glad that they are here because I know that I don’t have to be like really focusing on if they are going to eat and what I am going to get them,” she said.
“I would love for them to come home, but I have to get certain things out of the way. A lot of people don’t understand why people do what they have to do for their kids. It doesn’t make sense you have kids at home and you cannot provide for them. It is best they are somewhere where they are well taken care of, they are not being abused, they are not being molested, they are not being treated different from others,” she said.
Somans still has full custody of her one-year-old daughter and her 14-year-old son and tries to juggle her maternal responsibilities while going to school. She admits that some days, she feels like a child herself.
“Sometimes I would sit down and I would draw with my daughter, take pictures, play dandy-shandy, run her down with water balloon and everything, and I would think, ‘This is what it feels like to be a child?’” she asked as she watched her four-year-old daughter who, moments later, brought her an unripe mango she took up from under a tree.
Although his mother is not there for him daily, Somans’ nine-year-old son believes she is doing a great job.
“She takes good care of me and she loves me very much,” he said when his mother was out of earshot.
“The other reason why I love her is because she always kisses me on my cheek and plays with my ears,” said the fifth-grader, who came first in his class last term and hopes one day to become the prime minister.
His mother is not surprised at his ambition.
“I tell my kids, anything you want to be in life, you can be that,” she said, when she heard his desire for the future.