By Intisar Seraaj
Janice Saylor has been a foster parent with Seraaj Family Homes, Inc. her husband Clayton Saylor for about 18 years. They live in Troy, Alabama with their adopted son and daughter Marcuse S. and Taylor B.
Q: Can you tell me a little about yourself? What are your interests?
A: I’m 70 years old. I work as a receptionist at OCAP [Organized Community Action Program]. We run Head Start and several programs that help low-income individuals with things like utility assistance, job placement, and home repairs. That’s what I do daily—and care for my children.
Q: Can you tell me a little about your two children?
A: Marcuse is 14. Taylor is 15. I got Taylor years ago through her mom. Her mom was placed with me through Seraaj and she was expecting Taylor at the time. She was about three months pregnant. As a matter of fact, I named Taylor. Her mother chose her middle name and I picked the first name. This was back in 2003. We brought Taylor home from the hospital to our house. I’m trying to keep them active. They both have great grades and are very active.
Q: What type of activities are they in to?
A: They are both in the Upward Bound program at Troy State University. Marcuse enjoys Upward Bound. He’s on the A/B honor roll and he runs track. He sings in the choir and plays soccer. Taylor is into sports [too]. We try to make sure their grades are maintained so they can continue extracurricular things.
Q: What are their personalities like?
A: Taylor is a typical teen girl. She wakes up some days and is in full diva mode and doesn’t want to talk. Marcuse is loving and his attitude usually doesn’t waiver. He’s calmer and even-tempered.
Q: You’ve shared with us how Taylor joined your family. How did you get Marcuse?
A: Marcuse came to me through Seraaj. [We fostered him since he was in the seventh grade.] His five other siblings were also in care. Their mom just never got her life on track.
Q: And Taylor’s mom was in foster care with Seraaj, so do you know where she is?
A: Yes, we know where she is.
Q: Do you communicate with her?
A: Oh yes! We sure do. When Taylor gets mad, she says, “I’m going to my mama’s house!” I say, “Bye!” The mom eventually aged out of care and had another baby. That child’s father has custody of her [other daughter].
Q: Does Taylor keep in contact with her sibling?
A: Yes, she’s heavily involved with her. They get to see each other on holidays and at other times. Marcuse has no contact with his biological family.
Q: Are they not contact by choice?
A: Yes. I had Marcuse’s sister at one point but I didn’t adopt her.
Q: Not to be rude, but is it hard raising children at your age?
A: Yes! It’s a challenge, with attitudes and activities. It wears me out. But you must keep going. You love them and care for them, but they still have attachments to their biological family. Even the traits and personalities of their biological families usually show up. There’s really no amount of raising that can erase their natural-born traits, even if they don’t have contact with them.
Q: What kind of changes have you seen in them?
A: Well, Taylor was born with me, so her personality changes came later in life. Marcuse was a handful. He was determined to act out and be unruly.
Q: What was it about you that made the difference?
A: Well, you just have to put your foot down and set boundaries. I don’t raise my voice or mistreat any child, but I am firm in my requirements.
Q: How has going to church influenced them?
A: They really enjoy church and I just pray that it always has a positive influence in their lives. Right now, that are obedient to what they learn. But just like all children, they must, at some point, test the waters.
Q: Do you have biological children? If so, how many?
Q: How did you blend them with your adopted children?
A: Well, they are grown and gone, but I have one local biological child. They treat the kids like their nieces and nephews. [The kids] call them “tee-tee” and uncle.
Q: Have your views on parenthood changed since you’ve adopted?
A: They’re pretty much the same.
Q: What made you want to open your home after you raised your children?
A: I have always had children at my home. I raised my grandson. I noticed my house was getting empty. A friend of mine invited me to learn about foster care. I went to some classes and I just found that I liked it.
Q: How do you feel like you’ve grown by having your adopted children?
A: No, I’m making them grow! [But] children keep you young.
Q: Have they thanked you for certain things you’ve taught them?
A: Well, Marcuse always says, “Thank you, grandma”. I’m a grandma to them. They know they have a mama.
Q: How did you tell Taylor she was adopted?
A: She learned by mistake. She never knew it until the lady that was watching her was on the phone and [referred to her as] “the adopted little girl.” I was floored and upset. She was in the fifth grade.
Q: How did she take it?
A: She didn’t take it well. I think she’s been acting out a little ever since. I hope she comes to terms with it. I tell them, “You were chosen. That’s different.”