Today I had the honor of sitting down with Tess Thomas and Mark Weinstein (Finding Family’s foster care consultant) in the cozy dining room of Emma’s BBQ restaurant on South Rainier. Tess opened Emma’s, after fostering 135 children (all boys)! This morning was also a long over due reunion for Mark and Tess who have not seen each other since Mark retired in 2011. During the time Mark worked for the Washington State Department of Health and Human Services he placed several children in Tess’ home.
As we sit in and chat at a sunny table, two of Tess’ foster sons and her own biological son, Michael, come and go. One foster son just dropped by as he does every week but Michael and another young man came in to a consist Tess in coking for the day’s lunch crowd.
Tess has mothered boys with a variety of learning disabilities, behavioral problems, and emotional challenges. Tess believes that showing a child love and teaching them to respect themselves can go a long way toward healing wounds from past trauma. She attributes her ability to work with and raise so many children to her gift of patience—a gift she tries to pass on to all of the children in her care.
Out of all of the kids that have been placed with Tess over the years, she has only asked to have two children removed from her home. “They were too traumatized by their past experiences to stay with me. They were dangerous to the other children” Tess explains. Tess will continue to care for youth who are involved in the juvenile court system but is adamant about their need to change if they want to remain under her roof. Even after youth leave her home Tess always here for them. “If they want to talk to me I’ll listen. If they’re hungry I’ll feed them. If they need a place to crash for a night or two I’ll provide that.”
Most of Tess’s foster sons have gone on to live productive lives and raise families of their own (I can’t even guess how many grandkids she’s got!). A few kids, however, have served time in either juvenile detention or prison. “But,” Tess tells me, “…these kids come back to me and say, ‘Mamma Tess, you taught me better and if I’d listened to you then none of this would have happened.’”
When I asked Tess why she only fosters boys she replied “Girls are chatty, catty, and always want the last word!” It is important to note that Tess’s son Michael has given her three granddaughters and two great granddaughters, all of whom she is very proud.Read More