As COVID-19 coronavirus became a global pandemic, Peter Mutabazi received a call he never expected; one that would challenge him to dig deep on his own beliefs around what truly makes a family.
Peter and his son Anthony had moved to Charlotte North Carolina a year earlier. Peter had been a foster parent for a few years before he adopted Anthony. When they made the move, they knew that they wanted to be a foster family for other kids, but moving to a new state meant going through the long approval process.
It took almost a year of waiting, and the approval came at the start of stay at home orders in many states, including North Carolina.
“I knew the chances of placement or respite were close to none. All offices were closed and every family had been in lockdown for almost two weeks,” Peter remembers thinking.
Despite the odds of receiving a placement or a request to be the backup for another foster family, that’s exactly when the call came in.
“Would you be willing to take in a 7-year-old boy during quarantine?”
He was given some background about the 7-year old boy his new social workers were proposing for him to foster. “I was a little shocked, but listened to why they needed me to take him in during this lockdown.”
Everyone involved recognized the size of the ask given the current circumstances. “We had already been in quarantine for more than 2 weeks and I could not imagine taking someone in. We had no clue where he had been or who he had been in contact with.”
Peter had taken all the precautions necessary to protect himself and his son and struggled with whether or not taking in a child was the right thing to do for his family.
He had so many questions. Why did this little boy need a home now? What happened to his family? What would happen if they couldn’t find a place for him to be? “All I could think about were the what-ifs. So much was going through my mind. I was taken aback.”
Even with the questions he had, after listening to why this little boy needed a home Peter knew what his next step was; to have a family meeting with his son.
Watch Peter and Anthony with Hoda on the TODAY SHOW
Families Figure Things Out Together
When Peter approached Anthony to explain the call he received and the request to foster, as any parent of a typical 13-year old might expect, he was playing video games. Still, he listened to what his father shared.
“Hold old is he?,” asked Anthony.
“Seven,” replied Peter.
Anthony continued, “well, he’s probably going to be annoying and nagging, but he can play games with me.”
Peter felt a mini sigh of relief and was thinking, “OK, well that wasn’t too bad…” and then he heard his son say, “can he go biking with me when he comes?”
At that moment he knew that their only choice was to take in the little boy. “It was heartwarming to know he was thrilled to share all he had with him. I knew we had to risk it all so we could provide a safe and loving home for this little one.”
Between saying yes and their new family member arriving, Peter remembers wondering about not knowing what tomorrow would bring during the pandemic for himself alone, let alone his son and a foster child. He had no doubt, however, that he and Anthony would do their very best to make sure this little boy was safe and loved.
Where There Is Love, There Is Family
“A few hours later he arrived at our home. I didn’t realize how tiny and unsure he would look. I’m not sure he had ever stayed at a black man’s home before,” remembers Peter.
And then, something unexpected and beautiful happened. The moment the little boy saw Anthony, his smile grew from ear to ear; it lit up the entire room, and the two boys introduced themselves to one another.
Within minutes they were in the garage digging through thousands of pieces of Lego making unique creations.
That was truly the moment Peter knew he had made the right decision.
Family Takes Risks
The foster care system has been hit hard by the pandemic. From fears of spreading the virus between homes, to family courts being shut-down, and in-person and family visits suspended. Historically, domestic and child abuse get worse in times of disaster and so there is a fear of increased abuse for so many foster children who may have nowhere else to go.
Peter knew in his heart that despite the timing, he couldn’t forget the needs of others, especially kids who are vulnerable and need safety.
“A house is not a blessing unless it can be shared, even in the toughest times.”
May is National Foster Care Month. Even if you’re not in the position to take in a foster child, now is a great time to extend some kindness for other families and kids.
Here are some ways you and your family can help:
- deliver a gift card or a care package
- order a meal for a family
- offer to do a grocery or supplies run
- contact a family or your local foster care agency and ask what they need most right now.
What matters most is coming together as a family and sharing what you have with others who are waiting for you right now.
As for Peter, Anthony, and their new family member, they are all doing well, enjoying each other’s company, and at the writing of this article are about to grow their family again with the addition of a new puppy.
Davide Di Giorgio is a speaker, author, and advocate. His latest project, Now I Am Known is giving vulnerable kids and young people the opportunity to feel seen, heard, and loved. His TED talk, Overcoming Comparanoia® is fuelling a mission to empower people, especially young people, to compare less, celebrate more, and to spread kindness to all.