He is My Nephew
Five days after a baby boy enters this world, he is finally leaving the hospital. His first days in this new world were surrounded by doctors and nurses. Now he can go home, not with the people who first gave him life, but with a new family who will shower him in love and a stable home. This five day old baby is now a foster child. He is now my foster nephew. Fostering this child affects his life and the foster family’s lives by having to be this child’s most stable support system by creating an intimate bond between child and a parent like figure forms which is essential to the child’s upbringing. However, this bond can cause pain underneath all the love being shared and that develops a struggle in fostering.
When a child is brought into a foster home, the family doesn’t know how long they will have him/her. They go to countless court dates and various home visits to make sure the child is being cared for properly. Sometimes they bring the child to a visitation with a parent and the parent doesn’t even show up, multiple times in a row. The only family the child begins to see is his/her foster family and that child becomes attached to them. This foster family is the one who makes the child laugh, comforts the child when they cry, and makes sure they have food on the table. The responsibilities of a foster family are not just the physical needs, but the child’s need for love and affection.
This family bond is a two way street between foster parents and child. The foster family knows that one day will be their last day with them, but that doesn’t stop them from giving this one child all the love in their hearts. Fostering allows for people to shower the child in the love they deserve and not just half of it. It is hard to be a foster parent, because fostering is unpredictable. That child is yours for now, but the bond that is created makes it seem like you will have them forever.
One of the things that people struggle with in having this bond is when to love the and when to hold back to protect yourself. People hold back from giving love to someone, because they are afraid that he/she will leave. In the foster care system, kids do leave. They stay for a short amount of time of one month or for longer time of four years, but it is not fair to hold back love from them. These kids did not choose the foster care life, they were placed into it. People say that those kids are the ones who need love, but honestly, the foster parents need that love too. People who come in contact with foster kids fall in love with them, just as easily as the parents did, and want to cherish and remember every moment with them.
The child then begins to create bond with their foster parents as their “mom and dad.” That five day old baby is now almost six months old and he is my nephew. My nephew can take one look at his foster mom, my sister, and smile. To that little baby, his “foster” mom is HIS mom. The only mother he has ever known is his foster mom. It may not be biological, but while he is in her life for whatever amount of time, that is her son too. The bond of watching him roll over for the first time, or scream because he is just so happy playing with his new teething toy is unbreakable. This bond is what makes fostering kids worth it.
Fostering is worth the constant struggle to answer the question, “Why can’t I live with my mommy? Or where’s my daddy?” Sometimes the child gets to go back to their biological parents and that’s a fantastic thing. However, the foster parents that have become so in love with that child will always be wondering what sport he is playing, how she will look in her prom dress, or even is their child safe. For a short amount of time, that child was theirs and they will continue to worry and think about him for the rest of their lives. Now some people may see this struggle as something that is impossible to live with. It is hard, but achievable. You are taking in a child who has no place else to go and giving them a home. That makes the pain a little bearable and the impossible, possible.
A downside of being involved in the fostering process is not knowing where that child will end up. If the child goes back to the birth family, then you wonder about repeat of what happened the first time to get him/her in the foster care system. As the foster parent, you want to protect that child with everything you have until you aren’t able to anymore. The system only allows you a short amount of time with that child up until they are settled in a permanent home. Once that child is gone, it is harder to keep contact with the child because your visitation rights are decided on by the child’s new family.
Other times, the parent’s rights to the child are lost for various reasons and that child has to find his/her forever home. That home may be with the foster family and that child will know that he/she will be loved and supported for as long as they live. Sometimes, however, that child will go through the adoption process and the foster family will be there to support that child all the way through the process. The foster family will cry tears of joy when that child has found a forever home where they will be loved, or when the child is welcomed into a part of their family for the rest of their lives officially. Experiencing when a child finds their permanent home is a joy of being involved in the fostering process.
Being an aunt means that I get to experience the joys of fostering, but I also see the hardships. Notice how I didn’t say “foster aunt” because I don’t consider my nephew to be just a temporary part of our family. He may not be a part of my family’s lives forever, but he is my first and will always be my first nephew, no matter how he was brought into my family. He is a part of my family and I am a part of his. I have been one of the first faces he has seen outside of doctors and nurses, because I have the opportunity to make a difference in a newborn baby’s life. My sister gives her son a place to call home, a crib to sleep in, and a welcoming family who are always ready to pick him up and give him a kiss.
That little boy that I held for the first time at five days old has brought so much love and new experiences to my life that I wouldn’t trade the past six months for anything. These six months may be the beginning of our relationship or it may be the relationship that I keep for a couple more months then he is no longer in my life. That is a hardship of fostering. Myself and all those involved in the fostering community may have to say goodbye one day, or maybe even welcome him/her into their family forever. However, when I hear the nickname Big A, my eyes will light up in delight of the time I did get to spend with him. I know that no matter what home or with what family he ends up with, he will continue to light up someone’s life the way that he does mine.
Fostering affects me when I see the way that my sister and brother in law handle their son with such affection and protection. They always have the thought in the back of their minds that this may not last forever but they still have the courage to do it. I respect them and all of the foster parents out there who accept the challenge of loving someone for even a short amount of time. In that time, it’s enough for that child to say “I love you” and not want to leave the safest home they have ever belonged to. They belong in what seems like 2 families at once: one is his biological family, and the other is his foster family who he has spent the last amount of his life with.
Now the five day old foster baby is almost six month old and likes to scream like a baby pterodactyl. He is teething on anything his hands can reach, and sometimes even his own hands and feet. I am attached to my nephew and I want to protect him in all the ways I can. I want to make him smile and laugh. I am not the only person involved in the foster care system who gets attached to these temporary kids. Being involved in fostering gives many others and me the opportunity to bring a stable home and love to kids who may not have had the opportunity to have that before. Fostering is worth the struggle of saying goodbye, knowing that your time with them was spent full of love.