Written by Jacari Harris
What I know to be true is that I am not here despite my story, but I am here today because of my story. Because I know that we all have different stories and that all of our stories are powerful and can help someone get through life, I would like to encourage you that the time for you to start using your voice is now. Ever since I started using my voice and knowing my authentic identity, I have not only freed myself from the chains and shackles that once held me back, but I have also been able to discover the power of unity, forgiveness, and a limitless future. This is not just for myself, but for my biological and adoptive families.
My biological mother had a long history of crack and alcohol abuse. Before I could even crawl, she had left me with a non-relative informing the keeper that she would return in an hour. However, she did not return until days later. During the days that my mother was gone, she was seen walking the streets appearing drunk or high on crack. This caused me to be in and out of foster homes for two years before I was eventually adopted by a lady who many view as a great-grandmother.
Growing up, I was depressed and angry with anyone that I encountered. To me, I had the right to be in that toxic state of mind. My biological mother was in and out of jail, I met my father for the first time as he was laying on his death bed in the Intensive Care Unit, I learned from my guidance counselor that I was held back in the first grade, and I did not know that I had 17 other siblings roaming around in the same city that I was living in… as if I did not exist. Perhaps that is the reason why I spent a lot of time in detention, in-school suspension, suspended from the campus, and expelled over fifty times.
It wasn’t until I got older and learned that my biological mother was doing better that I understood that I didn’t have to allow the circumstances of my past to predict my future—neither did my biological mother. This is when I got on the right track to a better future.
My adoptive mother saw that I was doing better overall, and she began to allow my brother and I (whom she adopted as well) to visit frequently with our biological mother. This act liberated my biological mother. From that day forth, my biological mother’s life has drastically changed for the better. From being homeless and counting pennies to find food to now owning a home, feeding communities, and showing up to special life events for my siblings and I, my biological mother received the second chance that she never thought she would get.
When I reflect on my experience in foster care and the stories I have heard from others, I always ask the question, “What would be different if birth parents received the same attention and help as the child?” Far too often, birth parents are forgotten about and are not given the best resources to get back on track, just like my biological mother. Birth parents are still human, and we are all imperfect. When thinking about any issue, we must start with the actual root of the problem. Only then can we create solutions that are sustainable and effective. We can no longer put band-aids over the issues and hope that they will be fixed one day.
Biological family contact is critical. It has allowed me to know who I really am, understand why I do the things that I do, appreciate why I think the ways I think, and most of all created a way for me to have forgiven someone that I told myself I would never forgive.
Love is what love does. I needed someone to show up for me, and my adoptive mother did that. My biological mother needed someone to show up for her, and I’ve been doing just that for the past ten years. It has only gotten better by the day.
I encourage you to order my debut book, Lost & Found: Finding Success in The Search for Self. In this distraught, determined, and bravely confessional memoir, I share my journey toward true identity—both for myself and my family.
It is my hope that I inspire you and help you realize that you too can rise above the losses of life and be found anew.