As an organization dedicated to supporting children and families in crisis, we recognize that holidays can be a delicate and nuanced time for many. In this series, Purposeful Perspectives, we asked our staff members to select a season, month, or day that is meaningful to them to share with our CASA community. Thank you for joining us as we take a deeper look behind the celebrations that fill our lives.

Matchless Service

By Deidre Hollands

May is the month we celebrate mothers. Social activist and community organizer Ann Maria Reeves Jarvis is the inspiration for Mother’s Day in the United States. Jarvis was a dynamic woman who saw needs in her community and found ways to meet them.  As a young mother, Ann started Mother’s Day Work Clubs to provide assistance and education to families in order to reduce disease and infant mortality. Club members visited households to educate mothers and their families about improving sanitation and overall health. These clubs also raised money to hire women to help families when the mother suffered from tuberculosis or other health problems and to provide medicine. Ann’s efforts to provide support to mothers recognized the importance of community to children’s well-being. Before she died, Ann is quoted as imploring, “I hope and pray that someone, sometime, will found a memorial mother’s day commemorating her for the matchless service she renders to humanity in every field of life. She is entitled to it.”

I find it fitting that May is also designed as Foster Care Awareness Month to honor the family members, foster parents, volunteers, mentors, child welfare professionals, and policymakers who help find permanent homes and connections for youth experiencing foster care. Just as Ann understood that neighbors and community can provide the assistance that is sometimes needed to ensure the well-being of children in her local community, so too do the thousands of volunteers and professionals who work within the child welfare arena.

I am a child who was mothered and fostered by my community. My family relied on family and neighbors to care for me for several years of my childhood during an extended health crisis in my family. Some of the most powerful CASA volunteers I have had the pleasure of working with experienced foster care as children. Arguably, the most famous Beatle, John Lennon, was fostered by an aunt, civil rights activist Malcom X was fostered by several families until his sister took guardianship of him, Apple founder Steve Jobs was fostered and adopted as an infant; legendary singer Ella Fitzgerald was fostered by an aunt, media mogul Oprah Winfrey’s grandparents provided kinship care in her formative years, playwright Edward Albee was fostered and adopted, homerun king Babe Ruth was fostered at St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys where he was raised by Catholic monks, Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles was fostered by her grandparents, and the founder of Wendy’s fast food chain Dave Thomas was fostered and adopted.

What a delight that we have the opportunity in May to honor all of those who work within the foster care community who pour into children, mothers, and families in hard places. Just as Ann Maria Reeves Jarvis wished for mothers, those honored during Foster Care Awareness Month also provide matchless service rendered to humanity in every field of life. They are entitled to the honor.

It fulfills Ann’s legacy of activism for the well-being of children and families.

Following Ann’s death, her daughter Anna worked to have the second Sunday in May nationally recognized as Mother’s Day to honor her mother’s work. Arguing that American holidays were biased toward male achievements, she started a massive letter-writing campaign to newspapers and prominent politicians urging the adoption of a special day honoring motherhood and the sacrifices every mother made for her children.

At times, Mother’s Day has also been a date for launching political or feminist causes. In 1968, Coretta Scott King, wife of Martin Luther King Jr., used Mother’s Day to host a march in support of underprivileged women and children. In the 1970s, women’s groups also used the holiday to highlight the need for equal rights and access to childcare.

All humans are imperfect, a reality that extends into motherhood. But this day is about more than my mother or your mother or the mother who is in crisis working to be reunified with her child; it is about how mothers make unseen sacrifices every day, how many mothers begin their motherhood journey with disadvantages others will never know, and it is about the village of mothers who help and support each other along the way.

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