A transformed 'wild child' who sought to reconnect with her foster mom was able to find her through the kindness of strangers who were moved by their story.
Children who go through the foster system often suffer a lot and tend to dissociate from their foster parents as soon as they become adults and financially independent. But some foster parents go the extra mile to look out for their kids and make them feel at home. Essie Gilchrist, fondly known as Mama Essie, was such a foster parent who made a remarkable impression on a young Hannah Marie Smith many years ago. Although they lost touch for four decades, that has now changed all thanks to the power of the internet.
I was 12 yrs old when my mother lost the ability to parent me safely.— NeuroscienceGirlLOVESJesus (She/Her) (@Jubilee4Jesus) December 13, 2023
I was taken from her & put into a huge, scary children's shelter. It took a long time but they finally found someone who would take in a deeply troubled, rather wild child like me.
Mama Essie was a black…
Gilchrist spoke about Smith in an interview with TODAY, saying: "Marie had the most gorgeous red hair. I never stopped thinking about her. She's been searching for me?" Smith had been looking for Gilchrist for quite some time and decided to make a social media post on December 13, hoping that she could get some information about her whereabouts. In the detailed post, she shared how she was thrust into the foster system at just 12 years of age.
Love that someone on X found her for you. I bet your tribute makes her year.— Amanda Z (@azuydervelt) December 14, 2023
Smith found herself in a children's shelter and it took some time before she was put with someone who could take care of a "wild child" like her. This person was Mama Essie, who, along with Smith, took on two other kids. Despite Mama Essie's sweetness, Smith was quite rude to her and even resorted to stealing from the woman.
Thank you so SO much for sharing this story. Super encouraging to those of us caring for kiddos that are a lot like you were! I’m exhausted by my newest challenging sassy tween, but oh my, what a dream to have a life-altering positive impact like Mama Essie!— bethany (@sunnybmama) December 14, 2023
She shared, "I ran up her phone bill calling my boyfriend. When she put a lock on the dial-up phone, I broke it. I was a mess and a handful. I eventually ran away and was put back in the shelter and never saw her again. I'm sure I broke her heart." Even though things ended quite sadly, Mama Essie made quite an impact on Smith that helps her even today.
Fascinating story!!! Bravery showered you to share the shameful moments that we all humans carry, yet all humans don't carry the strength to share. Clearly this woman played a large roll of your growth becoming a woman. I pray you find her, whether living or laid to rest.♥️— Mr Legit 🇺🇸 (@HankOSkilz) December 15, 2023
Smith spoke about how she got to learn everything about grace, dignity, fashion, self-care and many other values from her. Mama Essie retired from a high post in the American military at a time when women of color were not easily granted such positions. Smith wrote, "She had severe eye issues, maybe even a glass eye. She single-parented three hurting foster teens. She owned her own house."
Is this her? Essie Gilchrist, still in Stockton. President of the Stockton branch of Women of Color International pic.twitter.com/AppnqJVpkT— Macrina Juliana (@MacrinaJP) December 14, 2023
According to Smith, her brief time with Mama Essie laid the foundation for the adult she is now. Even though she was quite rude to her, Mama Essie managed to teach her things that her own mother could not. The woman shared that she made the social post as a remembrance after her previous failed attempts to find Mama Essie. She concluded the heartwarming post by saying, "Mama Essie, if you're still with us or peering through the windows of heaven, thank you. From the bottom of my heart. I heard you. I saw you. You made a difference—more than you'll ever know."
Good Morning Lovelies...— NeuroscienceGirlLOVESJesus (She/Her) (@Jubilee4Jesus) December 15, 2023
45 minutes with Essie on the phone last night was amazing. So much I forgot.
I've felt like I've been pacing, wandering...I feel my soul stirring again. I know my story helps people. I feel inspired, infused.
I'm here for it. Good things are coming!!
A little less than 24 hours after she made the post, somebody had managed to find Mama Essie on X (formerly Twitter) and shared her contact details. She took to social media on December 15 to reveal that she spent a long 45 minutes talking to her Mama Essie and how amazing it was. Smith hopes that her story inspires other people. She concluded the post by saying, "I'm here for it! Good things are coming!"