Quilt up close

Quilt up close

I love being a foster mother.  I never know what a new day will bring.  We have had mostly babies and preschool aged children the past six months but now we seem to be getting older children.

I was at the After School program at the Lower Elwha Tribal Center, doing my weekly volunteer time there when I got a call on my cell phone.  It was a case worker from Tacoma saying she was desperate for a bed for a 13-year-old boy, she was searching everywhere, and could we take him even for a day or two.  I asked a few questions such as whether has he harmed younger children and does he have any major medical issues.  Receiving a negative I agreed but told her we were leaving town  for the weekend and could not keep him past noon on Friday .    It was already 4 on Monday but she said she would start driving our way and would call me when she got to town.  We live about two hours from Tacoma.

Monday our 4-H club meets at 5:30 and about an hour into the meeting she called to say she was nearby.  I told her how to find the church and I met her and the boy, who I will call Jay, in the parking lot.  I shook his hand and told him my name.  He didn’t say anything.  “He doesn’t eat much” she told me and she said she would be back on Friday morning to get him.  She helped him move a plastic tub of his belongings from her car to the back of our van.  He sat outside the room where we were meeting for a half hour until we were finished, listening to music on his iPod.    He didn’t say much when introduced to Seneca and Raven, he wasn’t sullen, he just didn’t react.

I had planned to meet with my small quilting group on Tuesday morning but I emailed the hostess to explain the situation and said I wouldn’t be able to attend.  Next morning I had an email back saying to come anyway and to bring him, he could watch TV while we quilted.  And so I did.  He was disappointed to learn that we don’t have TV so I told him to get his fill while we were there.

He said he wanted to be in school, so I called the principal of the middle school, who I know, and explained the situation.  He said that though Jay would be with us only four days, if he wanted to be in school they would enroll him.  So, I drove him to the middle school that afternoon and completed the paperwork.  People were so kind and positive in their response to him but he continued to have very little reaction.

That night he said he was not hungry when called for dinner.  We explained that he didn’t have to eat but at our house everyone gathers for dinner.  He sat at the table without eating a bite.  Next morning he went to school, I picked him up after and we had a repeat at the dinner table, he did not eat or speak.

By then, we had acquired a new little girl, 10 years old who I will call Kay.  She came with a smile on her face, loved our house, chatted with Seneca and Raven, ate everything she was offered and happily took seconds.  Totally opposite from Jay.

Thursday I picked up Jay afterschool, then Kay at her school and then went to the Elwha for Seneca.  On the way back in the car there was a breakthrough, Jay actually laughed at the girls and began visiting with them a bit.  He came to the table, ate dinner and asked for more.  Whew, he was not totally weird.

This morning, as the case worker had asked, we drove Jay to the middle school along with his tub of belongings.  He didn’t say good-bye or thank you and by then I didn’t expect that he would, but such a contrast to Kay who wished us a good day as we dropped her off.

Tonight I gave Kay a quilt that a friend had made for me to give to a foster child.  She was overwhelmed, saying that no one had ever made anything like that for her, and she gave me a hug.  I told her I hadn’t actually made it but that I would put her name on it tomorrow.

Wrapped in her new quilt

Wrapped in her new quilt

These two represent the extremes in terms of kids adjusting to foster care.  We take what we get without preset expectations.  When we get a child like Kay it is like frosting on the cake.  She will be with us a week while her regular foster mother makes a necessary trip to California.   We will probably will never know what happens to Jay, we wish him well and hope that the right family will be found for him to help him come out of his shell.  But it won’t be ours!!