Fostered by faith - Chance meeting moves former ward of the state to attorney-at-law
For many persons, the experience of being placed into foster care was horrific, with numerous stories over the years of foster parents who failed the children in their homes, but not so for Claudine Bailey.
As Jamaicans join the rest of the world in marking National Parenting Month under the theme 'be the influence', Bailey is urging foster parents to take their roles seriously as they can be influential in pushing the children in their care to become nation builders.
She was placed in a children's home when she was just a baby, but her mother went back for her when she was five years old, and put her to live with her grandmother.
That was the start of a nomadic life as she was moved from one caregiver to the next, until she met her foster mother, Christine Moore, when she was 11 years old.
"It was really crazy because I never know where I was going to end up next," Bailey told The Sunday Gleaner of her early life.
"I had this void inside of me and I wanted parents. I remember when I was in fifth grade, I used to hear my classmates talking about parents and I remembered I prayed to God. I said 'God, I want that, I want parents, I can be good, I can be great, I can make something of myself, give me parents'," added Bailey, as she noted that meeting Moore was the answer to that prayer.
She first met the woman who would become her foster mother shortly after being humiliated by her father who she had gone to for a pair of shoes.
"I knew what my father looked like and my grandmother said, 'just go to him in Spanish Town and ask him for a pair of shoes because that's what he sells'. I remember that day and I went to him and I said 'daddy' and there was a string of expletives," and I remember I was so shocked and I was terrified, and I ran to this car and I was crying and this lady she sat beside me. That lady is today my foster mother," she recounted.
WIND BENEATH HER WINGS
According to Bailey, since that day her foster mother has been the wind beneath her wings. She noted that Rudolph Moore, her foster father, also helped to make sure that she had a sense of stability.
A beaming Bailey said her foster mother always pushed her and sacrificed to allow her to unleash her potential.
After attending the Immaculate Conception High School in St Andrew, Bailey, who is now 29 years old, moved to the University of the West Indies where she read for a degree in law.
She said her foster mother took out loans and together they wrote letters in a bid to get persons to help finance her education.
In the third year when she was unable to pay the $236,000 balance owed to the university, her mother picked up the phone and called the then Child Development Agency (CDA) for help.
The CDA paid off the loan following an agreement that she would pay off her debt by working in its legal department.
She continued to work with the CDA when she started law school in 2012 and stayed on for two years until she moved on to the Ministry of Industry and Commerce as a legal officer.
Bailey was contented as she was going to Parliament, writing ministerial briefs and working on legislation, but her foster mother believed that she could be more and she told her.
"I remember one day my 'mother' looked at me and she said, you are not finished yet, you haven't arrived, there is still more for you to do, there are more levels for you to go," recalled Bailey.
That pushed her to China where she pursued a master's degree in international law after winning a full scholarship.
Back home, she is preparing to join the staff at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as a legal officer, and Bailey is convinced that everything she has so far achieved she owes to her foster parents.