Have I ever mentioned our foster kid? He's not ours, exactly, but some days, it sure feels like it. He lives down the street with his real foster parents, who went to our shul for a while, but then switched to somewhere else.
Some days, especially on Shabbos when I'm trying to lie down, he wanders past our house, staring longingly at the porch. If he sees any signs of life, he'll shout to us and ask to come in.
Naomi Rivka and Gavriel Zev are crazy about him - he's ten years old, so it's very flattering that he spends time with them. If they're out on the porch, they'll both start screaming his name and begging him to come in.
The older kids, not so much. To them, he's just a pain. No matter how much I tell Elisheva he could be Eliyahu ha'Navi in disguise, she still sighs and groans every time she sees him.
He sometimes comes over asking to read to the younger kids. They like it, but they also know his reading skills are a little challenged. I have to help, because if they pick too hard a book, he gives up on Page 2. If the book is too easy, he's not interested. It has to be just right for him to stick all the way through.
He's a frum kid; he's obviously been raised religious, but perhaps because of his challenges, he's only just now learning alef-bais, so he likes to practice it with Naomi Rivka. He's not allowed to say where he goes to school ("it's a private school").
Last Shabbos, he came in as we were setting up for lunch and when he noticed food was arriving soon, he asked if he could stay. I said it was up to his parents, so he ran and asked them and ran back to say yes. It was actually a pleasure having him for the meal. Why not? He doesn't eat much, and keeps the conversation lively... and keeps Elisheva's eyeballs rolling.
Usually, when he arrives, he'll look at the clock and announce something dire like, "I can only stay for two hours." To almost everybody's relief, he never stays the whole time.
After maybe 20 minutes, maybe 45 or more, he'll sigh like an old man with the weight of the world on his shoulders and say he's going home now.
Another neighbour, who openly dislikes the family, told me that he is not allowed to spend time in our home unless we have been cleared by the agency that placed him. I believe it; I know there are tremendous restrictions on foster parents, but what am I supposed to do? I'm certainly not going to report them.
To me, I'm just part of the village that it takes to raise this kid, because, for whatever reason, his original parents couldn't do the job. It shouldn't all fall on the foster parents; whatever money they're getting, it wouldn't be enough to make me want to have this kid full-time. A little at a time is enough for us.
At least the foster placement seems to be working; he's been with this couple at least four years and seems quite happy.
It's a relief after hearing so many awful things on the news that the system sometimes works: that sometimes, a nice, slightly older couple takes in a kid and it's a good match, if a weird one, and everybody benefits - including our family.