Personal-In Memory of a Foster Kid
Not long ago, we began trying to find the many kids we fostered and worked with decades ago. The search is hard, we are in a different state than the one we fostered in most often. Kids have changed their names, married, been incarcerated, had a bankruptcy or been divorced a couple times. Some kids just do not wish to be found and for other unknown reasons they do not want to stay in touch with us or even speak with us. The challenge is to find them and get them to talk.
By Jo Ann Wentzel
Recently, we found one of our more bizarre kids. He was a character with a unique personality. He did unexpected things. He said strange things. He dressed in a manner that was not what most would consider normal. He was his own person even then. He would never conform.
When we called, we were uncertain what kind of greeting we would get. We were foster parents and we had not always made decisions about the kid's life that they liked. But, he seemed anxious to connect with us which made us happy. He wanted to speak with us and he wanted to share things with us, but he was a very ill young man. We found him in the hospital and he explained, the best he could, his condition. He could barely talk so we had trouble understanding him. We called him a few times including on his birthday. The staff made him a cake and came to celebrate with him. He was pretty much alone except for a friend he made of a Vietnam Veteran, seemed like a strange combination of personalities, but maybe we did not know the older man he had become.
It soon became apparent how sick he was when we found out the kidneys and liver were not functioning. He talked about a tremendous amount of weight from the water he held. He let us know they would soon try dialysis. He was not a candidate for a transplant, I assume because of his alcohol usage. It appeared he had abused it for years. When we had him in foster care and he lived with us he had other problems, more of a psychological nature.
Next time we called, he let us know that the dialysis did not work. It was then we saw how truly sick this young man was and knew what to expect. It was a couple weeks later when he passed away at the age of 42.
Even when you expect it, it is still a shock when someone so young passes away. This man had a rough life and his parents never cared about him. His Vietnam Veteran friend notified us. He said we were on the very short list to be notified at his death. His parents were not. His friend did of course notify them eventually.
You expect foster kids to leave and change homes, being out of your life for a long time. I did not see this kid since we fostered him over 25 years ago, but my husband did.
This young man was a lost soul but, he was a warm human being with a good heart. His life was not good any of the years we knew about. We tried to keep him safe in a loving environment. We tried to give him a sense of belonging I hope he felt. Relationships were hard for him, but he gave what he had to others to the best of his ability. We were terribly busy and never had enough time, according to our wishes, to devote solely to each kid.
Yes, we were just foster parents, we had him for a short time in the scheme of things, but for a while he belonged to our family. He was part of it and was treated fairly and as well as our natural kids. It somehow wasn't enough. Not enough time. Not enough love. Not enough belief in himself to make a difference. But we cared. I will grieve for him for some time to come. I am sorry you had such a tough life I'm sorry it ended too soon. You touched people and you had friends even when you thought you were alone. We cared. I am so glad we found him before it was too late.