Family – The Tie That Binds
Lou Ann Mullen, from Lexington, was asked to speak at the 20th Anniversary of the Institute for Justice at the historic Willard Hotel in Washington, DC last month. She and her husband, Scott, fought the state of Texas in the 1990’s, with the help of the Institute, so that they could adopt several African American children, who now call them “Mom and Dad”. The following is her speech and the family’s story:
“In 1990 our home was blessed with two new foster children, Tierra age 7, somewhat shy, and her brother Derelle, age 5, who was very rambunctious. Immediately they captured our hearts and became family. Being so close in age, Tierra and our daughter, Mary, became known as our twins, not only at home, but also at school. They did every thing together: girl scouts, sports, cheerleading and even getting into trouble.
“ Derelle loved aggravating our oldest son, Juan. He also loved fishing, family football nights and our spontaneous family dancing times to the sound of Rod Stewart. Derelle enhanced my love for cooking with his big smile and eagerness to help while asking “ what’s for dinner today, momma?” He didn’t just ask this once in a while. He asked this question every day. They truly infused themselves into all our hearts.
“ In 1992 we had another blessing when the department of protective and regulatory service placed our little boy, Matthew, at the time 9 days old, in our home. Instantly, as I looked into his little eyes, he had my heart. I called him Little Man. He added that extra light to our family.
“I’ll never forget the day he started walking. Our family sat in a circle on the floor with anticipation of his newly found steps. As Matthew took turns walking into each of our arms, he carried such a big smile on his face. His smile showed that he felt such a sense of his accomplishment. It was priceless. We all loved watching him grow and seeing his personality blossom.
“ We told the social worker from the department that we wanted Tierra, Derelle and Matthew in our life forever, but we were told, “No!!! Tierra and Derelle will one day go home, and don’t even think about Matthew. He is black and will go into a black home.” I can still hear her words to this day.
“For the two years we had Matthew, the social workers searched for a black home for him and his brother, Joseph, who was in another foster home. In 1994 the state found a black home for both boys. It was a family that seemed to come from nowhere.
“The day Matthew left, our family was shattered!! All the arms he took his first steps into— now were forced to let him go. The look on his little face as they drove off would haunt me day and night. The state not only took Matthew from us that day, they took our hearts. The house was no longer echoing his newly learned words. The window he stood at looking out at his world no longer had the same appeal, except for traces of his tiny hand prints left behind as a memory of what was.
“Our family tried to return to normal, but knew it would never be the same. After two and one half months of grieving and wondering what he was going through, our phone rang. It was the department calling to say Matthew’s and Joseph’s adoptive placement had broken up the family and they didn’t want the children any more. So the department put them back in foster care—but not with us! We asked once more, “Please let us adopt! Let us adopt Joseph too!” We were told “NO! It’s in the best interest of the children to have a same- race home.” If a same-race home wasn’t found, then they would put Matthew and Joseph in a group home. The department told us if we proceded any further, they would remove Tierra and Derelle, who had been with us for 4 years. We couldn’t imagine losing them too.
“ My pain was greater than any I have ever experienced in my life, all due to the power of one word the Government used to classify individuals: RACE. The department said they would “ review” our application TO ADOPT, but we knew they were looking for a same-race family.
“We were knocked to our knees when we saw both children on TV and in a newspaper stating “ Brothers needing a loving home.” The department advertised even though they knew we could give Matthew and Joseph a loving home. Then the foster family fell apart. The department needed a place to put the boys and they called us. But they said they would only place Matthew and Joseph as a foster placement, not an adoptive one. We were so happy to have the boys home, but knew the department was looking again for a same-race family. We treasured each day with our children while fearing each would be our last.
“I prayed and ask God over and over to make our pain stop. God heard my cries and on the wings of answered prayers came The Institute for Justice, who powerfully stepped in helping us stand up to the department and made them consider us as an adoptive family. In April 1995 the Institute for Justice filed suit. Only then did the department agree to let us adopt, not only Matthew and Joseph, but Tierra and Derelle as well.
“ My family is labeled Multi- Racial. This is how we are described, but I don’t think of us that way. To me we are simply family and I love my family more than ever. To this day we are very grateful to God for leading us to the Institute for Justice.”