When I was 16 years old my mom and dad sat my siblings and me down to make a major announcement.
Our parents didn’t normally do this so we knew something was up.
They told us about a family in our church that was in crisis. There was a single mom with four kids who definitely needed our help.
Sure, I thought, whatever you guys gotta do is fine by me.
Then they continued. The help they wanted to provide would make a significant change in our family dynamic.
My parents had decided to take in one of the boys, a five-year-old named CJ. We were going to be his foster family.
CJ lived with us for about 10 months. As I look back on the whole thing I realize I don’t remember much about it at all.
I guess I was indifferent to having CJ around. He was cute and all, but I was 17 and could drive, I didn’t have time for another family member.
I feel bad that I remembered so little about him. I recently asked my family about their recollections of being CJ’s family for a little under a year. Here are their responses:
Shaun (14 during CJ’s time with us):
Overall I was unaffected by CJ. I remember that I played with him on the trampoline. I’d wrestle with him, but overall it was a, “You do your thing and I’ll do mine and we’re cool.”
Jeff (11-12during CJ’s time with us):
For me CJ was an opportunity for me to have a legitimate someone to pick on.
Being the youngest and bar far the scrawniest of the Jones boys I really never had a shot against either of the older two brothers. Picking on Erica, although a very easy target, was unacceptable and I should have known better.
C.J. was fun for me. He was a little brother who wanted to play rough, do “boy’s” things, and because I was 7 years older than him and had to share a room with him, he looked up to me.
At times though, I let my better situation and age take advantage of CJ. I put myself above him because he wasn’t actually a “Jones.” I would trick him into cleaning my room by claiming this was actually “my room” he was just a “guest.”
I really did enjoy the fact that I had a little brother, even if it was just for a little while.
Erica (9-10 during CJ’s time with us)
I didn’t like CJ at all. I was mean and nasty to him.
I hated that he came along and was younger than me, which meant I wasn’t the baby of the family anymore.
We fought all the time and I felt like my parents always took his side.
My Mom would buy him new clothes and wouldn’t buy me anything. I didn’t know or understand at the time that he was in need of new clothes because he didn’t have any that fit him. I felt like my mom and dad loved him more than they loved me.
I honestly can’t remember a positive time with him… which is sad now.
I was really happy the day he went to live at a different house.
He didn’t treat me badly, any fights we got into were because of the way I treated him.
I knew my mom and dad were doing a “nice, good, honorable” thing by taking him in. I felt like that made me a better person (even if I did treat him badly) just because I allowed him to live with us.
There was a need in the church. A struggling mother who needed real help. We never hesitated.
I was surprised his mom would split the kids and give them over to complete strangers.
Her one request to us: Take him to visit his dad in jail whenever possible.
I had to navigate being CJ’s mom as well as mother to my natural kids.
CJ was an inconvenience. He cramped our style. It was an hour each way to visit his mom or dad.
We had to sit in uncomfortable places.
He was trying to catch up, he was behind other kids his age.
There was a lot of additional cost. Clothing, provision, doctors visits.
I loved watching movies with him and watching him react.
CJ craved affection. It seemed insatiable. He was really sweet, loved to cuddle. He loved being the “little buddy” and having “big buddies”.
Initially we thought it was only a matter of adding more water to the soup to bring in another kid.
I remember being frustrated with CJ’s behavior and correcting it. Nothing I used as discipline for my own kids seemed to persuade him to behave. I wasn’t used to having someone be afraid I would hurt them either.
I remember Erica had a tough time when he was there. Maybe because she felt like her status as the baby of the family was threatened. You’d have to ask her, I guess. Mom and I spent a lot of time reassuring her and explaining that CJ was going through things she would never have to
Also Mom and I had protective instinct for him when it came to false promises from his Dad or whether his Mom would really get her life straightened out. We really wanted to know that it was going to safe for him when he went back to his family. I couldn’t believe how sad I was for he and his brother (don’t remember his name) the day of the Father’s Day picnic when his Dad didn’t show up as promised. A mere bicycle ride away.
The Bible tells us that, “God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.” (Ephesians 1.5, NLT)
Here’s the thing: We have a God who has lovingly adopted us and called us His own. What’s more, He’s actively trying to adopt more kids, orphans, who are fatherless.
I’m glad my family was able to take in CJ. We provided a stable home and family, though far from perfect, that he wouldn’t have had otherwise.
I’m inspired after reading my parents responses as to why they did what they did.
To be honest, I’m rather embarrassed about my own recollections and those of my siblings. Shaun and I were more or less indifferent. Unmoved.
Jeff was opportunistic and at times exploitive.
Erica was jealous and angry that someone came and messed up what she had.
There are a lot of “CJs” out there. Lots of orphans, looking for families.
What’s your response going to be?
Are they a nuisance to you? Are you indifferent? Will you exploit them? Are you jealous? Think that God will love them more than He loves you?
Once we’ve been adopted it’s our job to become adopters.
There are orphans hoping to get adopted. They’d love to have you as a sister or brother. They’re looking for a mom or dad like you.