Written by Shay Stinson and Dr. Sharon Campbell Waters, Ph.D.
Mothering through choices
The voice of the mother is a perspective that has taught many lessons for many generations. From mothers we learn how to raise children, we learn how to solve problems, and we learn how to nurture the things and people around us. As we honor and celebrate National Adoption Month this November, we are reminded of the voice of the mother. At Seraaj Family Homes, Inc. we have the honor of hearing the perspective of mothering from many different roles. We hear the journey of mothers that must seek aid and refuge along their paths through fostering and adoption, and we honor them and partner with them to rebuild stronger and more stable families.
We also hear the journeys of biological and foster mothers that choose to love and nurture children with unique and complex needs. These needs range from mild to severe behavioral challenges, to very complex medical and social needs. We see and we wonder “what makes a mother choose to share this journey with a child that needs so much?” Then we witness the love and dedication.
Such is the case with a friend of the agency, Dr. Sharon Campbell Waters. Born and raised in the rural areas of Montgomery, Alabama, Sharon grew up knowing what it was like to give selfless love to a person that needed more of it than others. Her upbringing instilled in her the very foundation she would need when her journey of mothering called for more, it required Grace.
The Journey for Sharon
We asked Sharon to share with us something special about her journey in motherhood to celebrate National Adoption Month. She is the biological mother of one child. Although she has not adopted a child, she has deep insight into what it is like to make a choice to be a parent when choices are limited.
We asked Sharon…
“What is it like to be the mother of a child with unique or complex needs?” Eloquently and softly, just as an innately nurturing mother would, Sharon shared with us the simplest yet the most profound perspective, here is a window into her journey:
Being the mother of a child with special needs is one of life’s true blessings. It is, indeed, a unique experience, and when one realizes at first that their child will forever be “labeled” as different, special, or a host of other adjectives, not quite as pleasant, the truth sets in that the journey may be difficult, but well worth traveling. A friend shared with me the poem, Welcome to Holland, not long after my daughter, Grace, was born, and needless to say, it changed my perspective forever on raising a neurodiverse child.
WELCOME TO HOLLAND – BY Emily Perl Kingsley. ©1987
I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It’s like this…
When you’re going to have a baby, it’s like planning a fabulous vacation trip – to Italy. You buy a bunch of guidebooks and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice.
You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It’s all very exciting.
After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The flight attendant comes in and says, “Welcome to Holland.”
“Holland?” you say. “What do you mean Holland? I signed up for Italy! I’m supposed to be in Italy. All my life I’ve dreamed of going to Italy.”
But there’s been a change in the flight plan. They’ve landed in Holland and there you must stay.
The important thing is that they haven’t taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place full of pestilence, famine, and disease. Its just a different place.
So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.
It’s just a different place. It’s slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you’ve been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around, and you begin to notice
That Holland has windmills…and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.
But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy, and they’re all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say,
“Yes, that’s where I was supposed to go. That’s what I had planned.”
And the pain of that will never, ever, ever go away, because the loss of that dream is a very significant loss.
But, if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things,
And so it is, I am blessed because of Grace. And I really can’t imagine my life without Grace.”
Sharon Campbell Waters, Ph.D.
The grace of being a mother is something given and something received. Sometimes mothers come to the attention of Seraaj Family Homes, Inc. because they need nurturing care for their parenting roles, the grace that is given is deeply engrained into the support styles we offer. The services we extend are centered around holistic wellness for the entire family. We understand the parenting roles and the roles of biological families. We build strong connections with foster and adoptive families and through the use of grace, hope, and hard work we strive to rebuild the family units.
Seraaj Family Homes, Inc. outcome data shows that company-wide, we’ve had more than 837 successful reunifications and 237 successful adoptions. Of those adoptions, over 60 foster parent homes accepted sibling groups with two or more children. National Adoption Month is a time to celebrate and acknowledge successful outcomes of all types not only adoptions. Seraaj Family Homes, Inc., and partners like Dr. Sharon Campbell Waters, understand that parenting roles are unique and special and each deserves its own journey. There are no two alike.
About Dr. Sharon Campbell Waters, Ph.D. –
Dr. Sharon Campbell Waters, a native of Montgomery, Alabama, is the President and CEO of Innovative Grant Concepts, Inc., a grantsmanship consultancy.
She began her career at CBS, Inc.’s Television City in Los Angeles, California in the 1970s where she spent ten (10) years in various areas of radio and television production, and later advanced to the nascent minority and business development defense and NASA contracting industries in the 1980s where she wrote several major defense contracts for an 8(a) business contractor in the burgeoning IT industry.
Moving to the Hampton Roads area in 1996, she initially served as Development and Communication Manager for the Virginia Space Grant Consortium (NASA) before moving on to become the Grants Officer at Tidewater Community College where she wrote and received major grants for the college from the National Science Foundation, U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services, Education and Labor, and the Lumina Foundation. She later served as the Development Writer, Office of the Provost, Howard University, and Development Consultant to WHUT TV (Howard University’s PBS affiliate).
Waters is currently “semi-retired” and serves as Adjunct Professor at Tidewater Community College (Communication Studies and Theater and Public Speaking Instructor). She recently served as the Special Assistant to the President and CEO at STOP Inc., a designated Community Action Agency for Eastern Virginia, and is the recipient of a Community Impact Award for the organization which will be presented on December 9, 2021.
Waters earned the Bachelor of Arts in Mass Media Arts and Journalism from Hampton University in 1972; the Master of Fine Arts in Cinema and television from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles in 1975; and the Ph.D. in Communication from Regent University in 2005. She is a Golden Life member (50+ years) of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated.
Currently, a member of the Board of Directors of CHROME, Inc., a regional pre-college STEM Program, Waters is also a member of the Governing Board of the Southeast Virginia Homeless Coalition (SVHC) that provides education, networking, and advocacy for homeless populations in South Hampton Roads. Waters is married to Milton and has one daughter, Grace, a senior at Old Dominion University.