“Tianna wanted to be a mother, but a private adoption agency told her that prospects were not good for a single person. Cycles of in vitro fertilization did not work. But when she moved from Illinois to California to become a professor at UC Berkeley, she learned about Wayfinder.
“Wayfinder was very accepting,” Tianna recalls. “They were very flexible about how they define family.”
After being certified through Wayfinder, Tianna began her search. “I wanted to parent a Black child,” she says. “I know the struggles around African American children finding homes.”
Wayfinder introduced Tianna to 2-year-old Marshawn, who had entered the child welfare system at 8 months old due to housing insecurity and neglect. They began to get to know each other.
One day, Marshawn was in need of a nap when he came to visit Tianna. Tianna held him till he fell asleep on her shoulder. “He was a chunky butterball, and my arms were hurting,” Tianna says. “It was a special thing to hold this child who had enough trust to fall asleep in my arms. When I held him in my arms, I cried happy tears. I tell him I fell in love with him at that moment.” Marshawn likes to hear this story every day, and when it’s over, he says, “Tell me again!”
Marshawn moved in with Tianna and her mother, who had joined her daughter’s household to help out. Tianna and her mom tried to figure out why Marshawn said little more than “yes” or “no.” “Marshawn was a quiet kid who went along with things,” Tianna says. “Over time, I realized he had a lot of needs but couldn’t express them.”
Katy Greenwood, a Wayfinder social worker, remembers how strongly Tianna advocated for Marshawn: “She pushed to get referrals for therapy. She pushed the school for an Individualized Education Plan and services in the IEP.”
“Every decision I made about services, little and big ones,” Tianna says, “I made with Wayfinder. Katy and Wayfinder did so much for us.”
Katy has a slightly different perspective: “I would like to say that we did a lot for Tianna but it was largely her. It was us standing beside her.”
Gradually, Marshawn blossomed. Now age 6, “He’s really joyful and beautiful and hilarious,” Tianna says. “All those things came alive over time.”
Tianna and Katy describe Marshawn as a comedian. During the pandemic, Marshawn developed a liking for button-down shirts and bow ties, which he bought with his allowance and wore to his Zoom classes. When Katy saw him in a bow tie, he asked her, “I’m just so handsome, aren’t I?” Katy answered, “Yes, you are.” Ever the comedian, Marshawn responded, “I know, I don’t even have to try.”
In February 2021, after a pandemic delay of 10 months, Tianna adopted Marshawn. They celebrated with a backyard barbecue featuring all of Marshawn’s favorite foods.
Motherhood has been very rewarding for Tianna. “I get to hug and kiss and snuggle with the cutest, most adorable little boy who has a heart of gold,” Tianna says. “I am very thankful that I get to be his mom. It’s the most important thing that has happened in my life.”
A Special Gift for the Holidays
Join our gift card drive today! Your donation will help make a holiday wish come true.
What’s the impact of a gift card?
“I’ve never had a teddy bear before.”
Michelle is 5 years old and recently entered foster care after years of being neglected at home. She’s never received a gift, even on her birthday. Help give Michelle the number one item on her wish list: a teddy bear she has already named “Mimi.”
“We want to focus on gratitude.”
Baby Kami is visually impaired and is in Wayfinder’s early intervention program. Her parents, John and Stephanie also care for John’s elderly mother. John was laid off when the restaurant he worked for shut down during COVID. The family has been struggling to make ends meet but John says, “I just want to cook a Thanksgiving meal this year and focus on being grateful for our health and family.”
“I want him to believe in Santa.”
Richard and his little brother were placed in foster care last year just before the holidays. His foster parents told him they wanted to give him an allowance that he could save or spend on whatever he wanted. But Richard asked his foster parents if he could use his new allowance to buy gifts for his little brother. “I want to leave him lots of toys under the tree so that he knows Santa can still find us. I want him to believe in Santa.”
November 25, 2021