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Foster Hagiography

June 29, 2013 permalink

Enclosed is an obituary for long-term foster mother Erma Vinson. Her life was anything but routine. Her epitaph, however, is absolutely routine. Searching for foster deaths for our tomb page discloses several instances a week of similar obituaries of foster parents, all in the style of a hagiography. These cannot be the result of diligent reporters searching for a good story. The foster care system acts as a unit, under central direction, holding these stories in reserve until the time of death when they can be fed to the local news media. It is part of the social services public relations campaign that engenders the image of foster parents as saintly figures.



Vinson family
Robert Vinson, centre, holds a portrait of his late parents Erma and Rev. Adam Vinson, surrounded by, James Vinson, from left, Michelle Vinson and Brian Friday, June 21, 2013, at Victoria Greenlawn Funeral Home. Erma Vinson fostered more than 250 children over 60 years, was a founding member of Price Memorial AME Church and helped build a school in Ghana, Africa. Vinson died Wednesday, June 18, 2013 at the age of 89.
Julie Kotsis/The Windsor Star

Erma Vinson will be remembered most for a life dedicated to caring for children and a deep faith in God.

More than 250 foster children were placed in her care over the 60 years she welcomed kids of all ages – infants to teens – all in need of a safe, warm, nurturing place to stay.

Vinson was born in 1924, one of 11 children, on a farm in North Buxton, a few miles south of Chatham. She died Tuesday at the age of 89.

She opened her home to foster children in 1951 and the last one left in 2011. Vinson was on the Children’s Aid Society’s emergency list for decades, meaning a child could be delivered to her at any time of the day or night.

“Her home was always open,” said son Brian Vinson, one of five adopted children. “No matter what time, what day, it was always available.”

“I’m feeling the loss of a mother,” said Joni Lariviere, who spent 10 years in foster care with Vinson, from the age of five to 16. “She is the world to me – my inspiration.

“She was my light – someone I could turn to in need … sit on her lap, cry on her shoulder and she would just comfort me.

“Even when I left, I was always close to her,” Lariviere said. “She’s my mom – all the immediate family are my brothers and sisters.”

Lariviere said her mom always wanted her to sing to her, so she sang one of Vinson’s favourite songs – Silver Bells – to her in hospital the night before she passed away.

During Saturday’s funeral service (1:30 p.m. at Victoria Greenlawn Funeral Home), Lariviere will read a poem titled Sleep Mommy.

“It describes how I feel – feeling the loss but also feeling joy knowing that she’s at peace,” Lariviere said.

“The one thing that I know she would like people to know is she was a disciplinarian,” said son Robert Vinson.

But at the same time, she was a very loving mother to her five adopted children and her foster children, he said.

“She wasn’t one to say it all the time – they could tell,” Robert said. “You don’t have to be buying things and you don’t have to hear it all the time. Kids know who they can trust and who they can’t trust.”

Robert said his mother encouraged the children to be busy and to play outside as much as possible, but also to pitch in with the never-ending chores at her Cabana Road home.

“She used to say ‘An idle mind is a destructive mind,’” he said.

Vinson received numerous awards during her lifetime, including the Commemorative Medal for the 125th anniversary of the Confederation of Canada from the Governor General of Canada.

She was Foster Parent of the Year in 2001 and was awarded the prestigious Outstanding Achievement Award by the Ontario Association of Children’s Aids Societies in 1997. It was the first time the honour was issued to a foster parent.

She out-lived two husbands – Rev. Roosevelt Bernie Price and Rev. Adam Vinson. A devout evangelist, she was a founding member of Price Memorial AME Church.

“She was always strong – and had the ability to just know what to do,” Brian said. “Her main focus was making sure children had the opportunity to succeed and had all the tools to do so.”

“I could talk to her and she would give me the straight, honest truth,” Robert said.

Vinson is survived by five children, two long-time foster sons and four grandchildren.

In a 1997 interview with The Star, Vinson said, “If you don’t love children, you shouldn’t be doing this kind of work.

“I only hope that when I’m gone someone will pick up the banner and carry on. There are so many children who need a bit of kindness.”

It’s time for someone to pick up the banner and carry on.

Source: Windsor Star

saint with halo