Right: Maurice and Debora Crutison
Necessity can create wonderful results sometimes. Such is the story of the Crutison family: Father Maurice, mother Debora, and their adopted children, 19-year-old Nicholas Williams, 12-year-old Aaliyah Williams, and 2-year-old Marissa.
The Crutisons reside in a neat, compact home off Springdale in North Memphis. Nothing swank, but it’s clean and openly friendly, the type of household Atticus Finch taught his children about, where your deeds are your best luxuries.
The children are all siblings, adopted through the Department of Children’s Services (DCS). Related to Maurice via a distant cousin, mutual need is what united this family.
In their late 30s when they met, Maurice and Debora had already decided they wanted to adopt. Formerly a city bus driver, Crutison also serves as a deacon at the Morning View Baptist Church. He believes living by the Golden Rule is what brought him his wife and family; he has one adult child from a former relationship.
Retired now due to a heart-related disability, the family’s story goes back to when Maurice was driving the 52 Jackson route on the evening shift, where he practiced his motto of reaching out to people when the opportunity arose.
“That’s how I met my wife,” he begins. “She was working at the Peabody back then. I saw her at the bus stop. She didn’t ride that day, but I was always friendly with my passengers, and one day she did ride and started riding with me every night after that. I proposed to her on the bus in front of my favorite run.”
Originally from Panama, Debora was born when her mother was 50. “She wanted me to come here so I would have a chance in life.”
Formerly married to a serviceman, Debora had lived in Europe, but finding Maurice in Memphis fulfilled a longing she’d always felt. She, too, had a heart condition, one she says was eased by caring for their children. “There’s strength in love, and watching them grow keeps me from having so many bad days,” she says. “It’s the small things, like Aaliyah going to the beauty shop with me, watching her learn how to read, knowing that they need me.”
Their home is a certified DCS Safe Haven, where children needing sanctuary can stay until they are properly provided for.
While DCS covers a child’s basic expenses until they turn 21, “You have to want to do this,” says Debora. “They’ve been everything to us, but it wasn’t easy. They had to adjust. But we wanted to be there for them.”
They were planning to adopt or foster when they received a call concerning a situation in Maurice’s family. “We were already taking the classes at the DCS when the kids were sent to us,” says Maurice. “They were living with my sister, but the situation was a bit too overwhelming for her, so we applied to bring them into our home. They’re actually my third cousins, but now they’re my children.”
It wasn’t easy at first. The children had been through a terrible early life. A third child lived with them briefly but was too traumatized; she was placed in a guided living facility. “They’d been through so much,” says Maurice.
And yet, the power of love lifted them up.
The family recently celebrated a special day at their church with the christening of 2-year-old Marissa. At a large barbecue afterwards, 19-year-old Nicholas shared his feelings about his family with those in attendance.
“Many years ago I could have never dreamed a day like this would happen for me, and I thank God for my mother and my father. They took me into their home and always treated me like a son from the very beginning. Now I’m in college, I have a summer job, and I have a plan for the future. They did that, for me.”
Aaliyah performed at the dinner with the church’s praise dance group. Normally quiet, she says being in the group has helped her express her feelings. As part of continuing therapy provided by DCS, the teen also journals about her life. Looking at her mother for bravery, even as she smiles and talks about her life, tears fall, telling of a past that’s more than just a memory.
“My mother and my father taught me a lot, especially how to stay clean, be happy, and know about Jesus. I pray a lot. I love going to church. And I can read now,” she says with pride.
“It was very hard for them,” Debora adds. “They’d been through so much abuse. But we taught them that God can turn around anything. That’s what we believe and now they have seen it and believe it themselves. Really, I’m the winner here.”
Open Your Heart to a Child in Need
Want to learn more about adoption or foster care in Memphis? These agencies can help.
Agape Child and Family Services agapemeanslove.org • 323-3600 Dedicated to providing children and families with healthy homes. Services include prenatal counseling for unplanned pregnancies, care for homeless and pregnant women, adoption services, foster care, and family counseling. AGAPE also provides housing for homeless pregnant women.
Department of Children’s Services state.tn.us/youth • (877) DCS KIDS As Tennessee’s public child welfare agency, DCS works with families to provide foster care and adoption services.
Hearts for Adoption at Christ United Methodist Church cumcmemphis.org/adoption • 756-5465 Ken & Barbara Draffin, co-leaders For couples with infertility issues or interest in learning about adoption. Group also offers workshops and discussions on adoptive children. Educational series running from October 8-November 19 with classes covering domestic adoptions (Nov. 5), international adoption (Nov. 12), and preparing your adoption file/scrapbooking/journaling (Nov. 19).
Porter-Leath porterleath.org • 577-2500 Porter-Leath focus on early childhood education & intervention; foster care, residential and adoption services. The agency is always in need of great foster parents and resource homes. If interested, check the program qualifications and Parents as Tender Healers (PATH) training calendar on their website.
Youth Villages Adolescents from birth to 22 are referred here due to emotional and behavioral disorders, physical or sexual abuse, substance abuse, or suicidal thoughts or attempts. Programs include intensive in-home services, foster care, adoption, and residential treatment. Adoption, foster parenting, volunteer, and mentoring opportunities available.
EDITOR’S NOTE: We are sad to report that Debora Crutison died unexpectedly on Saturday, October 4th. She was 49. Our condolences to the Crutison family.