It was a sunny day the day that Justin arrived. As I stood at the open front door , I observed him walking up to the steps, holding the workers' hand....he was very unsure of what was going on. He had been taken out of his mothers home about a month previously and put into foster care. The foster home that he was in had to be closed because the foster father was a semi invalid and his health declined.
Justin's home life had been quite difficult. He and his younger brother Kyle, lived with their birth mom. Unfortunately, their mom was developmentally delayed....physically nothing hindered her from procreating but cognitively she was unable to parent. CAS worked with her for a number of years but the woman was unable to retain the instruction.
Just a side note at this point......we have had to make the very uncomfortable decision to have preventative means implemented with two of our adult delayed children just for this very reason. The end result....what happened with Justin and his younger siblings, wasn't fair to them or to their birth mom. We didn't want this to happen to our children and possible grandchildren too.
At this time , Justin's younger brother Kyle was living with his biological father, who no longer lived with their mother. Kylie's father also had some delays but not as severe as his mother. This is mentioned only to clarify why Justin was in care and Kyle was not.
Back to Justin......after the worker left, he started to cry....poor little guy didn't know what was going on, who he was being left with....he was quite upset and I didn't blame him. When you're a foster mom, you learn how to cope with these situations, but it doesn't make them easier. As I cuddled him and dried his tears, he was introduced to the rest of the kids...Leslie, Ryan, Corey and Lauren....Lauren and Justin were very close in age, with Lauren just being eight months older. Corey tried to reassure him that he'd like it here.....'mom is a good cook, you'll like the food'......with Corey it was all about the food!
Before the worker left, she told me some observations that the previous foster parents had seen about Justin....one being that they thought he was delayed. This was my first experience with a delayed older child.....of course our very first child Joey and then Adam were delayed but that was more from neglect. The worker inferred that this was genetically from the birth mom.
I decided from the outset just to treat Justin as I would the others....as a normal child with normal functions and abilities....all the things that I knew interested the others were offered to Justin. The others treated him just like he was their little brother....it wasn't long before we saw some positive changes in Justin.....it was like watching a flower unfurling....(forgive me my son for the feminine type comparison but I couldn't think of another example) ...Justin loved doing puzzles, Lego (especially Lego) , colouring, playing outside.....we still had a few cold days and Justin loved being outdoors.
Within six weeks, he was a different child. Who knew, that with normal stimulation and proper food , rest and security ( security is huge with any child) , that there was absolutely nothing wrong with this child! The workers didn't, and they were quite amazed when they did their follow up visits.
Two other significant happenings occurred in the following weeks.....the first were visits at the agency with the birth mom.....when I took Justin in, I also saw Kyle...he was a tiny little guy, small for his age as he had just turned one years old.
The second one was a visit from the baby worker....apparently Justin's birth mother was pregnant, due in the next few weeks with number three.....would we be interested in taking this babe.....sure we would, I said.....the worker said, the baby might be bi racial, ...we won't know til it's born......I said...So, ...that's not a problem.
Less than a month after Justin came, the birth mom delivered a good size, over eight pounds, little girl .....and she was bi racial.....and she was beautiful.
So, in less than four years we had gone from parenting two kids to six!
Unfortunately , that was to change.....again....and not for the better.
Justin's birthday was in May (still is).... We had just celebrated this when the agency dropped one of their famous bombshells.....Kyle's birth father had made his intentions known that he wanted Justin to come and live with them....he claimed that he had established a relationship with Justin and that he considered him his son, and he his father. Since, he did have Justin's half brother (Kyle), and the agency is all about keeping families together ( well, most times) they decided that Justin would leave our home and go and live with the Kyle's father and Kyle.
We were very sad to see him go...he liked living with all of us....Corey and him got along, at this point.....Lauren and him played well, he was just happy with us. I remember going out and buying a knapsack and then I went and bought another set of all the things he enjoyed doing at our house to send with him. I wanted him to have his favourite things. It was difficult to say good bye, but unfortunately , when you're a foster family, you have to say good bye...you don't have a choice.
That was not the end of Justin and our family though.
During the summer, we had a couple of short term cases....one was a little guy, also named Justin! The agency found this little guy, he was about three years old, in a motel room...neglected. He wasn't fed properly...in fact, when he sat at our dinner table, we had to stop him because he not only ate his food but would reach for the food on other people's plates.....this Justin only stayed for a week, until the agency found grand parents living nearby who were willing to have their grandson come and stay with them. As per usual, I never did hear anything more about Justin King....I'm hoping that he stayed with his grandparents though.
We also did some respite cases throughout the summer...other foster families going on vacation and not able to take foster kids....not that they didn't want to but because of visits with their birth families they must stay close by.
September came....the kids were all back in school. I received another phone call......
Justin was in care and he was asking to come back to our home...would we take him?......of course!
We were all excited that Justin came back....I remember saying to him, on the first day back, that we should go and meet Corey and Lauren coming home from school...they had no idea he was coming back, I thought it would be a nice surprise. We started walking up the road when Lauren turned the corner and started walking towards us.....as soon as she saw Justin, she let out a holler and started running.....Justin started running towards her and when they met, gave each other big hugs! It brought tears to your eyes. Justin was home.
Things had not gone well with Kyle's father....Justin was neglected and became Kyle's parent....there was one night, apparently, when the father went out to the bar and left Justin and Kyle locked in a bedroom....that night there was a terrible thunderstorm....Kyle was very scared( and was, for years after that) .....Justin tried to get out of the room, to get the father to come and help but the door was locked....when Justin was telling me this, I said...so what did you do.....'I climbed up into his crib and I held him til the storm went away'.....as I tell this to you I can still feel the impact I felt inside me when I heard those words. Such a brave boy, so much responsibility for such a little guy but he rose to the occasion....I was saddened but very proud of him.
There was one thing that always bothered Justin. Since his birth mom and Kyle's birth father really didn't know how to parent, Justin became the parent when he lived with them. At the young age of four, this little guy felt this responsibility keenly. Many time , after a visit with birth mom and Kyle, Justin would be depressed and often cried......repeating Kyle's name, over and over.
Don and I talked it over and approached the agency with a plan, we had our quota of foster kids that we were approved for but maybe the agency would allow visits....a plan where the boys could be together more often....we asked if Kyle could come and stay here one weekend a month....to spend time with his brother and sister.....the agency agreed, the birth father agreed. Justin was happy, his little brother was here, in his little world......little did we realize but in hindsight we should have known.....this was only the beginning.
So, at this point we had Leslie, Ryan, Corey , Lauren, Justin and baby Natasha. Yes, it was crowded, but by this time we had built a couple of bedrooms and a bathroom downstairs. Leslie and Ryan lived there, and the younger kids were upstairs with us.
It was a full household.