By Kim Schwartz, Texas Right to Life
Roberta Bell, a Louisiana correctional officer, was fired after agreeing to take care of a prisoner’s newborn baby.
Bell, a 58-year-old grandmother raising five of her eight grandchildren, worked at the Louisiana Transitional Center for Women. Her primary motivation for joining the facility was to be closer to her parents, but she also saw it as an opportunity to fulfill God’s calling.
“God had already tried to put on my heart to minister to women and to get them to know and start serving Christ,” she said. “Doing the right thing instead of doing the wrong thing. Once I got hired and I started working over there, I was ministering to the young ladies.”
One such inmate, Katie Bourgeois, became pregnant near the end of her sentence.
Bourgeois had no family members able to care for her son, and she was desperate not to lose contact with her son.
Bourgeois asked the other women in the prison for advice, and they all agreed “Mama Bell” would be the best choice to care for the baby.
Just as they had the idea, Bell was standing nearby. One woman noticed Bell and called out to her, “‘Ms. Bell, Ms. Bell! You’ll keep her baby for her, won’t you, Ms. Bell? Won’t you keep her baby? She just doesn’t want her baby to go to CPS,’” Bell recalled.
Bell recognized that Bourgeois was trying to turn her life around and didn’t think it was right for the baby to be turned over to CPS and potentially forever lost to his mother. She didn’t know if the arrangement would actually happen, but she agreed to take the child.
It turns out, Bell would sacrifice her job and her own financial livelihood to raise a baby who was not her own, but she believes her testimony will help others in need.
After initially speaking with Bourgeois about her situation, Bell met with her commanding officer to see if she was allowed to help the woman.
“I told him that I didn’t want to do anything against the policy and procedures. ‘I want to come to you and let you know that I don’t want to see this child’s baby go to CPS,’” she said.
The commanding officer told her that he would get back to her, but he didn’t. Time passed, so Bell contacted the owner of the prison, but the owner never responded either. After three months and Bourgeois neared her due date, she asked Bell for her contact information to give to the hospital so Bell could bring the baby home with her.
Bell’s contact information was then discovered in the inmate’s possessions. Although the major was aware of Bell’s intentions, sharing personal information violated prison rules.
Bell, undeterred, affirmed her commitment to caring for Bourgeois’ baby if called by the hospital.
“I said, ‘Major, if the hospital calls me to come get that baby, I’m going to get that baby because I gave her my word,’” she said.
The prison fired Bell immediately. She believes she was targeted for doing the right thing.
Despite the setback, Bell welcomed baby Kayson into her home until Bourgeois’ release in July.
Kayson, now in foster care as Bourgeois works to get her life back on track, brought joy to Bell’s family during their time together.
Bourgeois added, “I can’t thank her enough for everything she’s done.”
Bell said she loves Kayson “as if he’s my own grandbaby.”
Her compassion and steadfast faith changed this family forever.