Last night on ER, a woman with a heart virus and a nine-year-old daughter (of whom she had custody, but had not finalized the adoption) winds up in the ER. Their only living relative ... the child's ne'er-do-well father, a Peter Pan with a guitar. He hasn't seen his daughter since she was three, and it is immediately clear that this arrangement suits him just fine.
When it becomes evident that the woman was going to have to stay in the hospital for a prolonged period of time, arrangements had to be made for the little girl. The father/"uncle" (to the girl) was called over the objections of the foster mother ... and he is strong-armed into taking the child until the mother gets well. (The mother is afraid that he is not up to the challenge -- and that he will hit her up for financial compensation before he returns the girl to her after she is well. Since the adoption was not formalized, she has no real standing in the decision -- which is made jointly by the social worker and doctors.)
The social worker turns up and educates "Uncle Stu" about what this will entail --getting the child back and forth to school and the hospital each day, plus doctor checkups and the like. You can see in his eyes that this is MUCH more than he'd bargained for. The doctor suggests that he go for a bite of dinner and think things through ... and the man slips out the back door and is never heard from again. Presumably the child goes into foster care.
One aspect of this storyline hits close to home, in that my younger sister and I were displaced for a time when our sister Chris was undergoing chemotherapy and my parents stayed with her in New York. We stayed in two different places -- and have very different recollections of both. In the first home (our neighbors), we were expected to go along quietly and not make a fuss about missing mom and dad. ("They already have enough problems, you know...") In the second home, we were invited into family life, milking goats and picking corn and helping with the housework. We were busy ... but the time flew by.
When a child is experiencing the trauma of losing his or her family, the kind of support he receives from those who take him can make all the difference in the world. A little kindness and understanding goes a long way. Thirty-five years later, I still remember how scared I was, lying in that little bed and hearing those impatient words from the neighbor lady. And I still remember the kindness of the Ormeshers.
Have you ever considered opening your home to a child who needs one, if only temporarily? Go to "Extraordinary Moms Network" to find out how you can help!