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Social media reconnects Stockton foster mom and daughter 40 years later

Woman reconnects with Stockton foster mom online after 40 years
Woman reconnects with Stockton foster mom online after 40 years 01:57

STOCKTON — A woman who found herself in a children's shelter in Stockton as a young teen has found the woman who took her in 40 years later thanks to social media.

Former foster Hannah Smith, who now lives in Washington state, had sent her former foster mom, Essie Gilchrist, a letter in 2000 but wasn't sure if she ever received it. But this time, with the help of the internet, a connection was made.

Four decades ago, Gilchrist fostered a then-13-year-old Smith. A heartfelt gratitude post on X, formerly known as Twitter, helped them reconnect after all these years.

"I wasn't expecting to find her. [I] just wanted people to know there's these beautiful, amazing people in the world and we need to see them," Smith said of her post. "That was my goal, but it went better than I expected," Smith said of her post.

When Gilchrist saw the post, there were already millions of engagements from strangers out to help bring the two back together.

"Think about that, 1.9 million people helped to find little old me," Gilchrist said.

Smith said that she thinks about her foster mom a lot.

"It's retrospective," she said. "At the time, I wasn't aware of what she did but she showed me what stability was, which I never had."

Smith added that she still does her hair and make-up the same way Mama Essie taught her.

"I was pretty wild. I had a boyfriend. I ran up her bills. I broke her phone," Smith said.

But Gilchrist saw Smith for who she really was.

"One of the things that I saw was she was very bright. Very, very bright," Gilchrist said. "Sometimes, it's hard, but we try everything we can to help children to know that there are people out there who care for them."

Both women hope to have their next reconnection in person.

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