Rosie Chaney of Buffalo’s Riverside neighborhood is a 34-year-old mother of five who, despite her own struggles as a single parent, occasionally takes on the burden of caring for other people’s children.
Earlier this year, she took into her already-crowded home a trio of siblings whose own mother was no longer able to assume the responsibility.
“The kids were friends of my children [and] from the neighborhood,” Chaney explained recently, while volunteering at the Boys & Girls Club of Buffalo facility at 54 Riverdale Ave. in Riverside.
“They started coming to my house, saying they were hungry. Their mother was on drugs really, really bad, and I was the caretaker for them like every time the mother would get … in trouble or go to jail,” she added.
Chaney’s own children – a 14-year-old son, Davontay, and four daughters, Malina, 12; Aliya, 10; Arianna, 7; and Alissa, 3 – are often a handful all on their own, she confessed. Chaney said she is greatly helped by the programs at the Boys & Girls Club, where she and her children can often be found after school lets out.
Still, it bothers her to confront the specter of other children in need of love and attention when nobody else is available to fill the void. Chaney was not a friend of the woman whose children – two boys, ages 14 and 10, and a 12-year-old girl – she took in last spring and nurtured throughout the summer.
“It was taking a toll on me,” Chaney said of the abandoned children. “They were stealing, and they were showing my kids, you know, not so nice behaviors.”
“I knew that they could do better. I knew that I could teach them,” added Chaney, who said she was moved to take them in because “I wanted them to be together, [and] they were going to get split up.”
Eventually, the children were placed with another relative. Chaney said still-fresh memories of her own hardscrabble upbringing in Riverside and Kenmore spur her feelings of responsibility toward children who are neglected.
“I have love, and a lot of these kids are looking for it. A lot of them could [not] care less about the material things, you know what I mean? Those kids that I had, they wanted nothing but hugs from me. They wanted nothing but time. They wanted nothing but clean clothes to wear,” she said.
Estranged from her husband and unable to work because of a disability, Chaney struggles to provide materially for her own children, but she does what she can. Providing gifts for them at Christmas is a difficult proposition. They could all use new boots and winter clothing as the season sets in, she said.
“Every cent that I do get goes to my kids. I struggle to look for a T-shirt for myself,” said Chaney.
“If I have a little bit of extra money, I try to buy something for myself, and I just can’t, because Arianna needs this, Devontay needs this, Malina needs that, you know?” she added.
Even with limited resources, Chaney said, she relishes being a mother. “I don’t think God put me on the Earth to be anything else. I think He put me on this Earth to be a mother, because that’s what I’m good at,” she said.
“A child is a blessing to have,” Chaney added.