It Takes a Village

(WSVN) - Children being raised by friends and neighbors happens more than you think — especially in inner city neighborhoods. 7’s Robbin Simmons is here now to show us how sometimes “It Takes a Village.”

Eleanor Wilson has lots of babies. She keeps their pictures in her Bible.

Eleanor Wilson: “‘Cause I want God to look out for them and they be blessed.”

Eleanor has taken in more than two dozen kids — children and teens — over the course of 34 years.

Eleanor Wilson: “Some was there for a night, some was there for days, some was there for weeks, some was there for years.”

Eleanor Wilson
Eleanor Wilson

It began in 1978, when her own three children started bringing home troubled friends.

Eleanor Wilson: “If they didn’t abide by their rules, some [parents] would tell their children to go.”

Sometimes, it was the parents who had problems.

Eleanor Wilson: “Mental illness, drug addiction. I had one that the parent had a gambling addiction.”

She says the parents let their kids live with her, but there were no lawyers involved and arrangements were always informal.

Eleanor Wilson: “It wasn’t what I expected to do in life. It just happened. You just do what you do.”

And it still happens today.

Ultrina Harris: “It’s something that I see happening more than three to four times a month.”

Ultrina Harris is Eleanor’s niece — and a notary public. She says many kids in inner city neighborhoods are being cared for by people other than their parents.

Ultrina Harris: “Parents, grandparents that find themselves in difficult situations, and sometimes that means letting someone else raise their child or take care of their child for a portion of time.”

Ultrina Harris
Ultrina Harris

When parents need help, she says they come to her to notarize temporary custody forms, which you can get off the internet. The forms allow temporary caregivers to enroll kids in school or take them to the doctor without getting the state involved.

Ultrina Harris: “I don’t believe that a lot of the families go through the Department of Children and Families, because sometimes it can divide a family.”

And, she says, when a parent’s situation improves, they simply take their kids back.

Ultrina Harris: “It’s very common.”

Eleanor Wilson: “There are a lot of people out there that do what I do.”

Twenty-five years ago, Eleanor took in Craig Lewis.

Craig Lewis: “At times I was bitter. I lost my mom. She was murdered when I was 5.”

Craig lived with his grandmother, but when he was a teenager, he began to have problems.

Craig Lewis
Craig Lewis

Craig Lewis: “I had a lot of anger inside of me growing up. Getting older, she explained a lot of things to me, you know, that made me a better person.”

He moved in with Eleanor for two years.

Craig Lewis: “Whatever I needed, she was always there.”

And when her own mother started having struggles, Ultrina went to live with her Aunt Eleanor for 10 years. She says she learned many valuable lessons under her roof.

Ultrina Harris: “It takes a village. We have a lot of other adults and women who have taken in children as well, and they don’t look for the credit or get the credit. It’s just a gratitude, it’s just filling a need.”

People filling a need — giving kids places to grow and thrive during the hard times.

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