What’s It Like to Have a Foster Brother?

Will becoming a foster care family ruin my children’s lives?  Well, it didn’t ruin mine.  Having a foster brother was a good thing for me.

My foster brother was nicknamed Doughboy, because he was a very pale baby, just like the Pillsbury Doughboy.  I clearly remember when he first joined our family.  He was the quietest baby I had ever been around.  He didn’t make a peep.  No babbling.  No raspberries.  Not even a bit of crying.  As a big sister, having a quiet baby brother rocked!  He wasn’t at all like my annoying younger brother and sisters.  They wailed at the top of their lungs or chattered incessantly.

Until my mom explained why he was so quiet.  Doughboy’s mother never took him out of his crib, never held him, never talked to him.  So since no one was there to hear or respond to his noises, he had no reason to make any sounds.

My heart broke for him.  Imagine having no one around to listen to you.  So I made a point of talking to Doughboy, singing him lullabies, playing patty cakes with him.  I was so proud when he began to babble a few months later.  He knew I was there, loving on him!

Doughboy didn’t like to eat.  Awesome.  More food for me!

Until my mom explained that Doughboy’s mom often hurt him when she was feeding him.  Sometimes she would push the little rubber spoon too far into his mouth and make him gag.  Sometimes his bottle was too hot and burned his lips and tongue, which would make eating hurt.

Again, my heart broke for him.  I became the mealtime police.  Nobody was gonna make my brother puke on my watch!  And if any adults made up a bottle, they’d have to get past me and my temperature check.  I was an expert at squirting some milk on the inside of my wrist to double-check that it wouldn’t burn him.  As time passed and he became a chubby baby, I rejoiced that he had overcome his fear of eating.  I was pretty sure it was all due to my efforts.

But one thing really didn’t make sense to me.  Why was Doughboy’s mom so mean?  My mom explained that Doughboy’s mother wasn’t mean; she just didn’t know how to take care of a baby.  Huh?  That didn’t make any sense!  I was a little kid, and even I knew how to talk to a baby and feed a baby.

Then my mom told me about mental retardation.  Doughboy’s mom had a low IQ, and so things that people with normal IQs could learn and understand were difficult for her to grasp.  Doughboy’s mom was taking lessons in how to care for a baby so Doughboy could go back to her.

What!?!?!  Doughboy was going to go back???  But I loved him.  Did my mom have a low IQ, too?  How could she be so stupid to send Doughboy back?

My mom said that love is never wasted on anyone, even if that person is only around for short a while.  She was trying not to cry.  Later, I overheard her saying that she was very concerned that Doughboy’s mom simply didn’t have the mental capacity to care for a child.

Doughboy did go back to his mother.  Sadly, she wasn’t able to learn how to sufficiently care for him.  Doughboy was placed with another family from my church.  It was so weird seeing MY brother sitting with another family.  Nobody could be as good at talking to him as I was.  Did they know how to check the milk on their wrists?  Surely, this family couldn’t do it as well as me!

My mom helped me not think so much about myself, and instead think of Doughboy.  He was going to be adopted by his new family.  He would be in a safe and loving family forever.  I reluctantly agreed.  That’s what I wanted for my brother.

Like any mom, I worry about how my kids will be impacted by foster care.  I know that my kids will learn that life isn’t always good and I hope they learn that the best response is to stand up for what’s right.  Jump in.  Make a difference.  Even if in there is some sadness along the way.

** Reading Foster2Forever’s post “Adding Foster Children to Your Family:  How Will Your Kids Take It?“ inspired this post.  Check it out.  It’s great.

2 thoughts on “What’s It Like to Have a Foster Brother?

  1. Thank you for writing this! We were licensed last year and we just got our first longer term placement of a now 1 year old little boy in August. Our children 8 and 10 LOVE him so much. The parents do have a low IQ but are working very hard to get him back which will most likely happen in later winter 2015. The grief for my 10 year old son who is very attached is what I anticipate being the hardest challenge after he goes home.

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