Connect with us

Happy Tears

Internet Helps Reunite Former ‘Wild Child’ with Her Beloved Foster Mom



Quick Smiles:

  • Essie Gilchrist, fondly known as Mama Essie, is surprised to learn that her former foster child, Hannah Smith, is seeking her after four decades.
  • Smith, once a troubled child, credits Mama Essie for teaching her about grace, dignity, self-care, and resilience, and is now a successful trauma therapist.
  • Thanks to the power of social media, Smith finds Mama Essie, who is still living in Stockton, California, leading to a joyous virtual reunion.

When Essie Gilchrist, or as she’s affectionately known, Mama Essie, discovers that her former foster child, Hannah Smith, is on a quest to find her, she’s taken aback. It’s been over 40 years since their paths last crossed, but Mama Essie’s memories of Smith, who used to go by her middle name, Marie, are still fresh. “Marie had the most gorgeous red hair,” Mama Essie shares. “I never stopped thinking about her. She’s been searching for me?”

In a heartfelt tribute posted on social media, Smith recalls her tumultuous childhood and the profound impact Mama Essie had on her life. At 12, Smith was taken from her mother and placed in a large, intimidating children’s shelter. It was a difficult period until Mama Essie, brave enough to take in a “deeply troubled, rather wild child,” came into the picture.

Smith doesn’t sugarcoat her past. She admits to being a “hooligan” and a “wild, ignorant child.” She confesses to not being the easiest foster child, stealing from Mama Essie and running away, only to end up back in the shelter. But amidst these confessions, she also acknowledges the invaluable lessons she learned from Mama Essie.


She writes, “The foundation of EVERYTHING I know about grace, about dignity, about fashion, makeup hair care (I still use a pick), elegance, excellence, self-care, patience, love, goodness, generosity & fierceness in the face of pain came from my Mama Essie.”

Now a trauma therapist in Washington, Smith had previously tried to find Mama Essie but without any success. But the power of social media and a heartfelt post changed everything. Less than 24 hours after her post went viral, Smith received the news she had been hoping for. “Mama Essie is still living in Stockton. She’s alive! Have you seen the picture? She is beautiful,” she exclaims, her voice trembling with joy.

Smith fondly remembers dancing to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” with her foster sisters in Mama Essie’s “elegant, all-white” living room. She recalls the family dinners, the sense of safety, and the comfort she felt when Mama Essie took her to the hospital in the middle of the night. “She showed me that there was kindness in the world,” Smith says, her voice soft. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without her.”

When Mama Essie learns that Smith is happily married and a licensed therapist, her response is simple: “God is good.” Having fostered children for almost three decades, Mama Essie believes that each child left a mark on her heart and hopes she made a similar impact on their lives.

“I’ve heard from so many of the kids over the years,” Mama Essie shares. “What I tried to do is give them confidence and teach them (coping) skills. I’d tell them, ‘You’re smart. And you’re going to pull yourself up by your bootstraps. You can have a good life.’”

Smith’s search for Mama Essie ends with a 45-minute phone call that leaves her feeling inspired and hopeful. “I know my story helps people. I feel inspired, infused. I’m here for it. Good things are coming!!” she writes, proving that no matter how many years pass, the bond between a foster mother and child remains strong.