T-R PHOTO BY SARA JORDAN-HEINTZ Maria Lovin of Marshalltown is a busy single mother of two little girls, whom she adopted when they were babies. In addition, she provides Crisis Child Care, respite care, takes in foster children and runs a daycare out of her home. “There are more doors open for women who want to experience motherhood,” Lovin said. “Anybody that wants to be a mom can look for ways in their community to nurture and provide care and love for kids.”
For Maria Lovin, 30, her residence is filled with toys, games, sippy cups and blankets — signs that children occupy her home at any moment of the day. She runs a daycare service from her house, as a way to stay home with her two daughters, and provide care for other youngsters who oftentimes, are in crisis situations. Since August 2016, a total of 40 youths have entered and left her home seeking some type of temporary care.
What makes Lovin’s life circumstances distinctive is she takes on these responsibilities as a single mother by choice.
“I’m single, but not alone,” she said. “I have so many friends and family that help. I never feel intimidated taking in a number of kids. I have such a supportive group.”
Lovin, a native of Nevada, Ia., said she’s always had maternal instincts and a desire to better the lives of children who need extra care and love. Her interest was influenced by mission trips she has made to Mexico, aiding orphanages. She also studied abroad in Mexico, completing an internship and becoming bilingual. She set her sights on becoming an educator, graduating from the University of Northern Iowa with a degree in Early Childhood Education, and minors in Special Education and Spanish.
She took her first teaching job in Marshalltown, working at Rogers and Woodbury Elementary Schools for a total of seven years. In 2013, she decided she wanted to become a foster parent.
“I’ve always been looking forward to mothering, and taking care of children has been a source of joy for me,” Lovin said. “I didn’t realize the local need until I came here to teach.”
Lovin legally became the mother of two of her foster children. In 2014, she adopted her eldest daughter, who was an infant at the time. Then in 2016, she adopted a second baby girl. Mothering two young children while working a full-time job outside the home made her reconsider her circumstances. In August 2016, she decided to open a daycare from her home. About that same time, she got connected with the Crisis Child Care program through Child Abuse Prevention Services (CAPS).
“It happened simultaneously,” she explained.
Working out of her home made Lovin available around the clock to be called upon to take in a youth in need.
“Maria has been such an amazing addition to our Crisis Child Care program,” said Emma Macy, family support worker at CAPS. “She has such a nurturing heart and really cares for the kids and families in our community. Each time a child enters her home through Crisis Child Care, I know they will be well loved and cared for.”
During the day, Lovin babysits several children and cares for her two daughters, with as many as three youths also present from Crisis Child Care. She also has foster children who stay for a few weeks at a time, or for as long as a year.
“Since August 2016, I’ve had 40 Crisis Child Care kids come through, plus eight daycare kids. I’ve had eight foster children since 2013,” she said. “I also do respite care, which allows primary caregivers a breather, and it’s often used for foster families who need to travel and cannot take children.”
Lovin is quick to point out that not all youngsters who enter her home are the victims of abuse or neglect.
“There are a lot of reasons they could be coming in; it’s not always police removal. It could be because of a severe illness of a single parent, a medical emergency, but it can’t be a replacement for daycare,” Lovin said. “Sometimes children need a place to go before they enter foster care, so sometimes that is a reason for entering crisis care.”
While she has answered many middle of the night phone calls, receiving a child into her home isn’t always spur of the moment.
“Sometimes it’s planned ahead of time and I even meet the parents,” she said.
On average, Crisis Child Care youths stay only for one or two nights. Because of the nature of the job, Lovin said she prepares mentally and emotionally for when a child’s time is up being in her charge.
“Re-unification is always the goal, so I know that, but it has been hard. It’s easy to grow attached,” Lovin said.
She also spoke about how she feels fortunate to have the opportunity to pursue motherhood on her own terms. Decades ago, many states had laws banning single parent adoptions, and in places in which it was legal, societal biases saw single parent adoption applications be turned down.
“There are more doors open for women who want to experience motherhood,” Lovin said. “Anybody that wants to be a mom can look for ways in their community to nurture and provide care and love for kids.”
Adopting children as a single woman was met with support from friends and family, but unwanted questions from others.
“As a nontraditional family, sometimes it is hard to answer all the questions, but it hasn’t deterred me from pursuing what I know my passion and purpose is,” Lovin explained.
This woman’s advice to other moms is simple: “Don’t let other people’s expectations determine how to mother — there’s no one right way.”
The Lovins enjoy bike riding, reading, traveling and visiting Grimes Farm. While she has no immediate plans to adopt additional children, she is open to the possibility. She said she will ultimately return to teaching.
“It’s just a journey. You keep having to learn and relearn — it’s all an adventure,” Lovin concluded.