This is the story of a boy. Let's call him Judah. Judah is 12 years old. He was removed from his home when he was three. Since then, he has lived in five or six homes, I’ve lost track. He lived with us for a couple of years. For the past three years, Judah has lived in institutional residences to treat certain psychiatric and emotional issues.(more)
Judah is very sweet and loving. He can converse with you about the deepest topics, conversations you wouldn’t expect from most 12 year old boys. He is very smart but he has some learning disabilities. He reads a lot but has trouble making change. He can’t sit still for long periods of time. He has psychiatric and emotional issues that are being treated.
Judah loves to watch and play sports. He likes to wear sports jerseys. He loves to go to ballgames. When he was six, I took him out to ride his bike. He insisted that I take off the training wheels. Against my better judgment, I did. He started riding by himself the very first time I let go of his bike. (He couldn’t stop but that’s another story). Today, I took him ice skating for his first time ever. Same thing. He never so much as touched the rails.
I never once saw him cry when he got hurt. If he walked into a wall he’d just grimace and keep going. He’s the toughest kid I’ve ever met.
Judah's devotion to Hashem (G-d) is inspiring. Despite the many trials and disappointments in his short life, he has never taken it out against the Master of the Universe. He keeps kosher and wears his kippah in an environment where, not only is he the only Orthodox kid, he is the only Jewish kid. Sometimes the other kids in the residence get non-kosher goodies, but he passes, without complaint. He benches (grace after meals) and says Asher Yatzar ( aprayer said after using the bathroom). He is fervently Shomer Shabbos (Sabbath observant) and even makes his own havdalah (a prayer said at the conclusion of Sabbath). He learns with volunteers at every opportunity but his Hebrew reading needs work. I don’t know where he gets the strength to maintain his Jewish identity in such an uninviting environment. I am humbled.
His inner strength is equally inspiring. He has always adjusted to the many changes and challenges that he’s faced. He remains an optimist despite everything.
Judah loves to be hugged. It wasn’t always that way, but it is now. When he first came to us, many years ago, after spending a year at another foster home, he was very remote and reluctant to let his guard down. Getting a hug out of him then was out of the question. (Can you blame him?) Now when Judah visits us, he makes sure to give me and MHW big hugs both when he comes and when he leaves.
He loves all the kids in our family. Our kids love him back and consider him part of the family. He will always be a part of our family. (Our son OOS insisted that Judah walk down the isle at his wedding even though Judah hadn’t been living with us for a while.)
It is difficult to adequately describe the tremendous impact that Judah has had on our lives and in the lives of all those who have gotten to know him. He has connected to us, inspired us, and made us laugh and cry. Our lives and the lives of our children have been immeasurably enhanced by our having cared for him.
His relationship with the baby we are fostering is even more remarkable. In some kind of mystical way that I can’t explain rationally, Judah and the baby seem to have connected in a very deep way. She follows him around during his visits as if he were the Pied Piper. I know that makes him feel special.
Now, it is time for Judah to find a home. He is doing very well and the residence wants to place him in a home. They feel that not only is he ready for a home, he needs to be placed in a home.
All we have to do is find him one.
He needs parents who have infinite patience. Who can lavish him with attention and love. Who are structured and firm. He needs a family that will take him in as one of their own.
I am not so naïve as to believe that finding him a pre-adoptive home will be simple. Judah is not simple. On the contrary, he is a complicated, smart, insightful, sweet, sensitive, affectionate 12 year old boy. And, like any other 12 year old Jewish boy, all he wants is a home of his own. A family of his own. A place to come back to after school, day after day. A place to get hugged.
If you or anyone you know in the Metropolitan area might consider becoming Judah's pre-adoptive foster family, please contact me at emansouth @ aol.com or Shulamit Marcus at OHEL at 718 851 6300. The transition process from the residence will take a number of months. OHEL will assist in each phase of this transition. Sara and I would be happy to discuss this situation in detail with any prospective foster families.