Sharing a recipe for crock pot chicken and dumplings. A faithful friend when someone is in trouble. A surprise hashbrown casserole. Cookies for a soldier. Character counts. It counts both in small acts of kindness and in over-the-top dedication to being a good person.
Perhaps one of my very favorite memories of Mary Corwin was when an online troll harassed her about foster care, “What do you know about foster care? What makes you the expert?!” Mary is pretty much one of the top experts in the field of foster care and adoption here in Middle Tennessee as an employee of a social services agency. She has worked in the foster care system as an adoption case manager for 22 years. Babies are easily placed but older children desperately need homes, as well as children aging out of the foster system.
As an outspoken advocate of caring for and loving children who find themselves helpless and at a crossroads in their lives, Mary herself opened her home and heart to 18 foster children. Most were short-term placements, including one foster child with mental health issues that ultimately caused Mary to miss spending time with her father in his final days. The emotional trauma of her dad’s death caused her to ask for time off from fostering. She needed to take some time to deal with her devastating loss, to grieve. Over the next nine months the Department of Children’s Services continued to reach out to Mary.
Nine months. Nine months is the time it takes for most new parents to prepare for babies. Nine months of pre-natal vitamins, decorating, baby showers. Nine months of hope, excitement. Mary spent her nine months in a quiet house – talking with friends and family, spending some time without making big plans. And she slowly recovered.
But one phone call nine months into her healing process changed the course of her life. It was DCS. And surprising even herself Mary agreed once again to open her heart and home to a foster child. The 21-month old baby girl needed a safe place, a roof over her head for just two weeks. So on January 12, 2005, the tiny little girl entered Mary’s world. On October 12, 2007, Micci’s adoption was finalized.
“She changed my life in every way possible,” said Mary. “Personally, I became a mother and she helped heal my heart. Professionally, Micci gave me a new perspective on the foster care system and the adoption process. It makes me more relatable to clients because I can share my personal experiences and not just book knowledge, especially with single moms.”
Mary said the biggest challenge of being a single mom is balancing parenting while being a working professional. Sometimes she feels she doesn’t give enough time to her job because her daughter will never be put on the “back burner.” Mary’s daughter just started her senior year of high school and has been an active Girl Scout for 13 years. Scouting has been a foundational piece of their lives together.
When her daughter was in third grade, she started gaining experience with horses while at camp. The worldwide coronavirus pandemic had a devastating impact on Micci as her final year of camp was canceled. But always one to find a silver lining, the $600 earmarked for camp and working off an additional $600 in farm chores (feeding animals, throwing hay, filling water troughs, gathering eggs, etc.), the 17-year old became the proud owner of her own miniature horse, Phantom. Mary’s daughter is now training Phantom (named after the opera) to be a service horse. Micci spent some time in a therapy horse facility in Ohio for formal instruction on this service.
Spending years in girl scouting has been fun for mother and daughter. Right now they’re planning a trip for her graduating troop and are considering New York City as their destination to see the Statue of Liberty.
Mary is a strong advocate of scouting. She said the experiences are something she could never have afforded without scouting. “For us, it was free equine therapy allowing Micci to focus more and she has become less nervous. Working on achieving higher awards, she has learned communication skills, organizational skills, working toward deadlines, financial literacy. Girl Scouting encompasses all of this. And it has helped Micci discover that as an adult she wants to study equine sciences.”
As with everyone, I asked Mary to share what she loves about LaVergne. “I like that it’s close to a big city, but has that small town feel. I like the sense of community, although it sometimes feels strained.”
What are LaVergne’s biggest challenges? Mary wants to see more programs for older kids, especially recreational stuff. She believes high school kids come home from school and either nap or get in trouble. “Give them options!” Mary also wants to see more restaurants, “We need more choices of places to eat, dine-in restaurants specifically. I want to see more types of food choices so we don’t have to leave town.”