The Story of My Life as a Foster Mom

Thomasena Newton at her retirement celebration with CFC

“Your experience is different from their experience, and you have got to learn, and once you learn, then you can operate differently with them. But if you don’t learn, then you can’t operate.”

In addition, Thomasena makes sure that the kids who come into her house know that every religion is welcome and respected. One of her biggest takeaways from being a mother to these children is that

“Everybody is somebody and you have got to give them a chance to know that they are somebody.”

She makes sure that each of her kids know that they are human beings too. They have as much of a right to be in this country as everyone else. She explains this philosophy best by using an example of people who eat rice every day. Some who never eat rice may not understand the impact that rice has on a person’s everyday life, what it does for their body, their food preparation culture, and their eating culture. So, when kids don’t want to eat the food prepared by Thomasena, she tries to understand how their food culture shapes their feeling of comfort. She then adjusts her way of life to accommodate theirs.

Thomasena Newton at her retirement celebration party with CFC’s Unaccompanied Refugee Minor case manager team

“The most important thing in this journey is that they know that they are human beings too.”

On top of taking care of kids and working full time at Kodak, Thomasena worked at New Life Fellowship, a large church in Rochester. From the thirty years of working there, Ms. Newton took away a key lesson: to help one another. To help one another and remember that not only does God bless you, but God blesses you with help.

“I always know that there’s a need. Everybody has a need — and it ain’t always foster care. Kids need different things from different places. You don’t live by yourself in this world. And you have to learn how to help people. One day you’re going to need help. And you don’t know when that day is coming. But if you live right, the doors will open for you.”

Ms. Newton saw her truth play out in 2018 when she suffered from a stroke and spent a couple of months recovering in a hospital. Her strong community stepped up and helped her in every way that they could. Her recovery, however, did not stop her from getting back to taking care of kids. Even from the hospital, Ms. Newton was working with Catholic Family Center to make sure her kids were being looked after properly. And, as soon as she arrived home from the hospital, she started arranging plans for her next set of kids.

Thomasena Newton (right) with Hilary Clinton (middle) and Judy Ashton of the Adoptive and Foster Family Coalition (left)

“The most important thing in the world is understanding. Whether it’s through a child or anybody else. With understanding you can change the world in so many ways. But if you ain’t got no understanding you ain’t got nothing.”

Each child still has a special place in her heart. She still talks to many of them today. She routinely gets phone calls, postcards, and even wedding invitations! One of them even named her daughter Thomasena, in honor of Ms. Newton. Ms. Newton is now 81 living out her retirement with her niece in Georgia.

“Well, all I can say is, if it’s your truth, that’s what matters. ’Cause my story is different from everybody else’s story. My experience is different, but it’s my experience. Everybody is somebody’s child, and they are wondering where and how their child is. As a foster mom, I never forgot that I was taking care of another mother’s child, who had her own dreams and love for her children.”

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Catholic Family Center is the largest provider of family services in #ROC, addressing issues of need across all stages of life. See more:



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CCFCS is the largest provider of family services in the Rochester, NY area, addressing issues of need across all stages of life. See more: