Humans of Hyattsville: Fostering children and gardens in Hyattsville
Maria Cecilia Ulrickson lives on 42nd Avenue. You will often see her taking walks and going for jogs around Hyattsville. She is a passionate gardener and foster mom, and she hopes that she can convince you to foster children, too.
What is your occupation?
I’m a professor and foster mother. I teach history of the Catholic church and slavery.
What does your family structure look like?
It’s hard to say how many children we have. On any given day it is changing. My husband and I moved into a big multi-family home in Hyattsville so we could be foster parents. Currently we have two children in our home. One of them is 13 months old and has been with us since he came out of the NICU [neonatal intensive care unit]. The other is 6 months old and has been with us from very early in her life.
Since we became foster parents in March 2019, we have had eight foster children. Some of the children we have had for 18 hours, others of the children we’ve had for over a year. The children’s ages have ranged from newborn to 15 years old.
One of our former foster children is our godson. After he reunited with his mother, we together decided to join households and he now lives with us a couple days a week.
How would you describe yourself?
I am a Dominican American. I’m a wife and mother and academic. I’m a Catholic. I’m a daughter and sister. I’m also a gardener-in-training.
What causes, whether local or beyond, are you passionate about? What topic really gets you talking at a party?
Anything related to racism, slavery, colonial history and foster care. Oh, and the environment and care of the Earth.
How do you wish people saw you?
It depends on where I am. When I’m in the Dominican Republic, I wish they saw me as a Dominican, not just an American. I’m more of a heritage Spanish speaker. I love that part of myself and my family very much, but I’ll never be seen there like I would like to be. My mother only spoke to me in Spanish, but I didn’t start speaking back to her until adulthood. Now I am basically fluent, but it is always work. I’m at least trying to give my own children full exposure to the Spanish language, which is what my own mother so graciously gave to me.
What are some of your favorite aspects of life in Hyattsville?
I love our multi-family house because it’s allowed us to have a family. When we were moving to Hyattsville, we realized that because we wanted to foster children, we needed to have the capacity for them before we could take the classes to become foster parents.
I also love our yard and garden. We would love to survive solely on our garden for nutrition. When COVID-19 hit, I Ioved thinking about what it would look like to live only off of our garden. Of course, that would have been only seven heads of lettuce, a few green beans and maybe some eggs, … but it was fun to dream.
We love our neighbors in Hyattsville. They are so awesome. One of our neighbors (I’m not sure how) knew it was my birthday and brought over cake. Another one of my neighbors helped last year when one of our trees fell into the road. My husband was gone and a neighbor of ours dropped everything to come and help us take care of it quickly. Other neighbors also joined in to help get it out of the road.
What do you wish Hyattsville did differently?
More speed bumps on 42nd Avenue!
How do you like to relax?
I like to be with my husband and go on walks around Hyattsville. I also like to garden, take care of our bees, brew kombucha, read and sing. I’ve sung in community and church choirs. And of course drinking mojitos with mint from my garden!
Interview by Kelly Lindquist
Email your “Humans of Hyattsville” and “Life Under COVID-19” stories to Lindsay@hyattsvillelife.com.