A Former Foster Child’s Recollection of Hattie Talley

We meet thousands of people in a lifetime with many of them disappearing in the annals of memory. But every so often there’s one person you come across, whether it’s for seven minutes or seven years, that changes your life forever.

Hattie Talley, Founder New Jersey Foster Parent Association (now known as Foster and Adoptive Family Services)

Hattie Talley, Founder New Jersey Foster Parent Association (now known as Foster and Adoptive Family Services)

That’s what Hattie Talley, co-founder of Foster and Adoptive Family Services (FAFS), was for Susan Roseboro.

After becoming a foster child in 1966 at age 13 following her parent’s divorce, Roseboro spent time in four foster homes, each leaving little impression and less connection.

The fifth home, however, changed everything.

In March of 1967, Roseboro entered the Willingboro house of Hattie Talley. She joined two other foster kids as well as Tony and Carol, Talley’s biological children. However, for Talley, there was no need to distinguish between the two.

“She was a good mother,” Roseboro said. “She didn’t make distinctions between foster kids and biological kids. They were just her children.”

Having grown up quickly with her parent’s divorce, Roseboro said she was a mature 14-year-old. She was used to taking care of things around the house.

“I was the second mother of the house,” Roseboro said. “She couldn’t believe I was 14. But there (at Talley’s home) it was different. I didn’t have to be that anymore.”

Roseboro said Talley was a true mother who paid close attention to all her children. Although this was before Talley founded FAFS, Roseboro said her foster mom was always involved, whether it was volunteering with the local EMS or simply cooking large and delicious meals for dozens of family and friends.

“She had a sense of home,” Roseboro said. “When she spoke, people listened. She had that personality. You knew what she said was to help you. She was a really special person.”

Talley was also an authority figure in a way that she said she hadn’t come across in foster care. Roseboro said she remembers having her curfew set at 1 a.m. by Talley. One night after hanging out with friends, Roseboro arrived back at Talley’s home at 1:05 a.m. to quite a surprise.

“The doors were locked,” Roseboro said. “She refused to open the door. She said 1’oclock, she meant 1’oclock. She was good at setting boundaries and bringing stability.”

Despite everything, Roseboro was only in Talley’s home for seven months. But, according to Roseboro, that’s all it took.

“I was only with her seven months but seven years couldn’t have given me more,” Roseboro said. “I could never forget her. When I had a problem, I knew she had an answer. I knew if I really listened, I couldn’t fail or go wrong.”hattie talley

As Roseboro grew older and had children of her own, she often returned to Talley, even letting her former foster mom babysit her son. Roseboro said she remembers coming back from work one day to Talley’s home to see her son with stitches over his eye.

When she asked Talley want happened, she very calmly and matter-of-factly told Roseboro that the boy had fallen, and she had taken care of it by bringing him to the doctor.

“She was in control,” Roseboro said. “For me, it was thank god I have a mother who can care for me.”

Talley’s impact on Roseboro continues to this day as Roseboro seeks to become a foster parent herself.

“She helped inspire me,” Roseboro said. “She absolutely inspired me to help other people. She encouraged me to make a difference.”

At Talley’s funeral in April of 1986, Roseboro read a piece she wrote titled “A Tribute to My Mother” where she spoke wholeheartedly about what Talley had meant to her growing up. In the piece, Roseboro said Talley was someone who genuinely cared, a person who really listened and provided support. She was, to Roseboro, a mother.

“I found a great sense of belonging,” Roseboro said. “It’s something I never had and she provided that.”

It’s something Roseboro herself would like to provide to foster children now.

That’s Hattie Talley’s legacy.

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