Safety planning

family tree


wishing it weren’t necessary.

My lips purse, my throat tightens,

I swallow.

“Please, come in out of the rain.”  They awkwardly stand just inside my front door, after I insist.

We walk through the documents that assign me as a legal guardian. “No restrictions” on my power to handle the school, medical and legal matters for two precious children, in case of emergency. I slide my hands over their birth certificates, the notarized signatures.  We say out loud, for good measure: hopefully these papers will never be needed.  They assure me that they have told their kids to call me if something happens, and finally told them they might be arrested by ICE someday.  They have slipped a copy of the papers into their kids’ backpacks.

I breathe as I read the worry in their eyes.  The parents ask whether they might be eligible for this, or for that, under immigration law, and would that old DUI matter any more?  I remind them that they should really talk with an attorney.  I used to work in immigration law for many years before becoming a teacher, but that was over ten years ago now. I share what little I can remember, and say don’t talk or sign anything without talking to an attorney.  They discuss whether Canada would be an option, given that the mom is a certified nurse.

I feel compelled to tell them that I am married to a woman, since they are entrusting their kids to me. I say, maybe you already knew, but some people are uncomfortable with that, so I want to tell you directly. They say that they already knew.  The dad says I already told him, but I don’t remember. I often don’t come out to families from school, especially if I know they are churchgoers (though I know many churches are starting to change). I have known this family a long time, however, and their incredibly kind eyes reassure me.

When there are no more words to say, they slip into a repeated, heartfelt “thank you.” There is no doubt, I say, and I am honored by your trust.  I pray that we can work together so that all of our families can live in peace and free from harm.




10 thoughts on “Safety planning

  1. Wonderful piece of writing that reminds us of the uncertainty and fear some of our neighbors face. When I imagine asking someone to take my children in case… it defies imagination.
    I especially appreciated your honesty about sharing your marriage, and that it did not change your friends’ feelings. That really added weight to this piece.


  2. Wow! How beautiful. What an amazing thing as a teacher to be entrusted in this way and good for you for agreeing to it. I pray that it never comes to that though. It’s comforting to know that your families are understanding that “love is love” and see you for the person you are all around and not just the teacher that came out.


  3. Reading this brought tears of sadness, rage, and gratitude. Sadness for this family and all those in the same situation who are scared and uncertain of what their future holds. Rage at leaders and citizens who feel that immigrants are a threat, not an asset, to our country. And gratitude for you and everyone who is helping, reaching out, and working for change. Thank you for sharing this very real slice that highlights the times we are living in.


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