Children, Newborns, Teens at the Doorstep: Tuba City Woman Serving as Foster Parent for 28 Years

Navajo Times | Krista Allen
A girl shows her caretaker what she found while sifting through boxes of clothing on Sept. 9. Clothing, cribs, diapers, among other things, were provided by non-profit charities Giving Chances and Arizona Helping Hands. Both organizations are dedicated to helping homeless and foster children.

TUBA CITY  Years ago, Vallis Martinez returned home to the Navajo Nation and wanted someone to cook for. Now she does a lot of cooking for her husband, Ronald Joe, and seven children.

When the children leave her small three-bedroom house in Tuba City, it gets quiet.

“It’s like having children of your own,” Martinez said in an interview. “I stay home all the time for them because I don’t want them running around out there on the streets and other things like that.” The 50-year-old has fostered around 10,000 children since 1989, the year she graduated from high school. A woman had approached her about becoming a foster parent. The woman filled out an application for Martinez, and she became a foster mother of five the following day.

“I didn’t know what I was doing,” Martinez remembers. “I tried quitting but (child welfare) kept bringing kids.” Martinez at one time fostered 10 children at once, in addition to her own three children, for an entire month.

“There was a lot of grocery shopping and a lot of cooking,” she said. “I enjoyed them.” ‘Only the clothes on their backs’

It has been 28 years since Martinez became a foster mother.

Today, she still gets children, newborns and teens alike, at her doorstep, sometimes late at night.

“Some of them arrive with only the clothes on their backs,” said Joe, who met Martinez four years ago, not knowing that she was a foster mother.

Editor’s Note: This article was first published in the Navajo Times. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

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