David Trinko: ‘Nana’ shows friend’s girls the power of family

Biology doesn’t make you a parent. Love does.

Cathy Jackson, 48, of Spencerville, keeps on proving that.

“From day one, they called me Nana,” Cathy said of 9-year-old Mia and 8-year-old Jeanel. “I told them a Nana takes the place when Mommy can’t be there.”

Two years ago, Cathy and her husband, Tim, began taking care of Mia and Jeanel, when their friend and Tim’s co-worker, Robert, had a massive heart attack.

They invited Robert, a single father, to recover in his home. He waited on a heart donor’s list, but he died before a transplant could happen.

“We knew that taking care of his girls is what Robert wanted,” Cathy said. “We wanted to make his journey a little easier, if he knew we would always be there for his daughters.”

The girls’ birth mother isn’t in a stable enough environment to care for the girls, but she does see them regularly.

The Jacksons could have thought their child-raising years were older. They have a 27-year-old daughter and a 23-year-old daughter, who’ve married good people and brought two grandchildren into their lives.

About six months after their birth son moved away to college, though, they decided to become foster parents. They were foster parents to Brandon and Brit for eight months before deciding to adopt them four years ago.

Then, two years ago, Tim and Cathy, at an age many parents begin doting on their grandchildren, decided to become parents again. They went through the Kinship Caregivers program through Allen County Children Services to get custody of the girls. They were among the people recognized at the first Kinship Appreciation Banquet on Wednesday night.

“I wish more people would do this,” she said. “So many children are in foster care who don’t need to be in foster case. If your best friend’s children are in Children Services, you don’t need to be an actual blood relative to take on responsibility.”

It’s not hard to become a foster parent or become an adoptive parent, Cathy said. It’s the same work as with any child.

“If you can raise kids of your own, you can do it,” she said. “It’s no different than raising your own. There are good days and bad days, but do it. Don’t stop and think about it. Just do it.”

Her two younger daughters are biracial, which can be difficult in a world so eager to see skin color.

“We all bleed the same color. Jesus loves you, no what what color you are,” she said of her children. “I love you, no matter what color you are.”

She pushes them to see beyond that.

“I just want to be a positive influence in the girls’ lives,” she said. “They never had a woman figure in life. If I’m the only woman figure they have, I want it to be a positive one, regardless of color, race or religion. A family is a family, period.”

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By David Trinko

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David Trinko is managing editor of The Lima News. Reach him at 567-242-0467, by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @Lima_Trinko.