The rambling thoughts of a Modern Orthodox Chassid (whatever that means). Contact me at emansouth @

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

On Fostering: Part II

This Shabbos marks The Toddler's second birthday. I will be writing a few posts about fostering to mark that occasion.

To say that we didn't know what we were getting into when we agreed to foster might be the understatement of the century. It took us about an hour to realize that.

We had been certified for only two weeks when we took in our first kids, two brothers, ages 4 and 5. The first thing we found strange was how easy it was for the previous foster parents to give up the boys. They arrived at our house on a Sunday morning, dropped the boys off and walked away. I distinctly remember seeing a big smile on the face of the foster mother as she walked back to the car. Uh Oh.

We took them to the pizza store. We had always been proud of how nicely our own kids behaved in restaurants so we were not prepared for the bedlam that ensued. The boys were almost literally climbing the walls. Oh boy.

This was only a tiny hint of what was to come over the following year. Our lives were turned upside down and inside out. Our home at times resembled a loony bin. Our kids did not know what hit them.

And yet...

Anyone who has raised kids knows that children do not often confide their innermost feelings to their parents (In fact, teen aged boys in particular become cavemen from 9th through 11th grade; if you can get more than a grunt you are ahead of the game). So, it was difficult to gauge how the kids were feeling about this experience. We knew it was hard on them but were not sure to what extent. We also knew that they were growing and maturing from this experience. But we weren't sure to what extent.

And then, OOD wrote this essay for school:

"Judah" joined our family when he was five years old. He arrived at our door with three garbage bags and five years of baggage. How frightening it must have been for a small foster child, having to pack up his life in a split second. Judah wasn’t the only frightened one, however.

There I was, a 14 year-old high school freshman adjusting to twelve new classes, ninety new classmates and embarking on a new stage of my life. Escaping from a demanding day at school was no escape at all. Although at home I did not have notes to write or tests to take there was much learning to do and perhaps coming home was the biggest test of all.

Feelings of confusion constantly overtook my thoughts; who was this child? Was he my brother? Why didn’t he hug, smile or cry? Why did my parents suddenly have less time for me? I viewed him as a stranger, taking over my territory. Suddenly, there was one more place to set at the Shabbos table, one less seat in our car. When asked how many siblings in my family, I would hesitate – only because I myself did not know the answer. Judah was taking something away from my life. There were times when I couldn’t empathize with his tragic life because I felt too angry. Later I would be disappointed in myself for not sympathizing with the poor little boy living in our home. Some nights I would sit by his bed and watch him sleep. I thought of my mother who buttoned up his shirt every morning, and then of his mother who couldn’t button up her own son’s shirt. I thought of my father who taught him with patience and dedication how to ride his bike, and then of his father who didn’t have patience or dedication; but more so - he didn’t have his son.

We had his son. Very slowly, “his son” became “our son”. I began to understand the depth of our chesed and the impact my family was making on one life. Over time Judah became more receptive to our affection and our affection became more natural towards Judah. Perhaps it was the thirst for love that I detected in him, that motivated me to suppress my frustration, swallow my pride and provide Judah with what he yearned for. Eventually I understood that Judah didn’t need me to button up his shirt or teach him how to ride. He needed my love and I was finally prepared to give him that. He was my brother.

Today Judah smiles and cries. Sometimes if I’m lucky I get a hug. There are still nights that I watch him sleep and think about all we have given him, but more importantly, what he has given us. Judah has taught me the value of family. Each time I look at him I am reminded of my life of blessings. I think about Judah every day. I worry about his needs, insecurities and future. Judah is one of the most special people in my life. I know he may not be with us forever, but I also know that I love him and he is my brother.
("Judah" left our home after a year to go to what we hoped would be a pre-adoptive home. He came back for another 8 months a few years ago when he was about 9. He has been in and out of a number of homes and in a residence for the last three years. IY'H, he will be walking down the aisle at OOD's wedding next month).

Next: The Baby Changes Everything (Part I is here)



  • At 6:50 PM, Blogger SaraK said…

    That is an amazing essay. You have a special daughter and she has special parents!

  • At 11:00 PM, Blogger kishke said…

    That was a beautiful essay.

  • At 11:15 PM, Blogger David Mark said…

    WOW! I feel like doing a mitzvah. Thank You for sharing and showing us how, we humans are B'Tzelem Elokim. Thank You Thank You Thank YOU!!


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