We were pups, my brothers and I. At the time, I might have been five, my older brother seven and my younger brother three. (The picture below shows us celebrating my younger brother’s second birthday.) Certainly, none of us knew what conversations my parents had had with their friends, but results from those conversations had a definite impact on us.
Here’s what happened. Mom and Dad were friends with a couple, Bob L. and Dotty. (I think that was her name.) They had two small boys, Robby and Ricky, born two years apart. The family lived in a small apartment near our church.
I think my dad had been friends with Bob when they were both single men; Dad spent his life lending a hand to one or another of his buddies. In this case, Bob and his wife had a troubled marriage and things had gone from bad to worse even before Ricky arrived. Dad wanted to help this couple keep their marriage together (if possible) so they began spending more time with our family in our home. Eventually, the wife walked away, leaving for good, and Bob needed someone to take care of his boys while he worked. He called my dad and asked if, as a temporary measure, he could drop the boys at our house on his way to work Monday morning.
Naturally, my dad agreed. But even as he agreed to the “temporary” arrangement, he knew it wasn’t likely to be short-term.
Again, I can’t tell you the conversations my parents must have had while wrestling with this outcome. Robby and Ricky were brought into our home where they stayed from Sunday night until Friday night … every week. At the time, Robby was about four years old and not yet potty-trained; Ricky had some obvious disabilities so his potty-training was also delayed. (Also, no disposable diapers in those days!) On weekends, Bob would pick up his boys and take them to the home he shared with his parents.
This was the 1950s. There wasn’t a DHS/CPS or any other organization (besides the church) to micro-manage childcare arrangements. Most families didn’t have the means to afford a nanny. Daycare (as we know it today) hadn’t yet been invented. People cobbled together whatever arrangements could work and I suppose if their situation demanded it, some children were left unsupervised. Functional families (like ours) often did whatever they could to be the hands and feet of Jesus for those who struggled and needed assistance.
Now local news reports have turned their focus to an Arkansas State Representative who “re-homed” two adopted children with a family where the father-figure ended up abusing one. I’m only providing one link for this particular story. If you want more information on the situation, it’s a quick search.
I have met this state rep once, maybe twice, so I don’t know him. I have many friends who know him well. What strikes me most about this story, though, is the visceral hatred which has been directed at the state rep.
So, functional family that we were, we became the hands and feet of Jesus for two little boys. The arrangement wasn’t easy for Robby and Ricky. They had already been rejected by their mother. (She would return many years later but she was a terribly damaged woman.) Being carted back and forth from their grandparents’ home to ours every week created its own chaos. Much as my parents loved them, these boys suffered a burden of constant confusion that was heart-breaking.
For my brothers and me, there were also adjustments. Instead of sharing our parents exclusively in our five-some, two additional pups (enfeebled pups) joined our litter … and their demands monopolized our parents’ attention. Every Sunday night when the boys arrived, I remember Mom restarting the potty-training she’d successfully instituted the previous week. But each weekend away, the boys unlearned what she’d taught them. This took a huge toll on Mom, and by extension on the rest of us.
I’m not going to defend the practice called re-homing. However, I can’t help but think about Robby and Ricky who were “re-homed” every single week for about two years! Was it a great situation for them? Not at all! Their struggle – just to grow up – was significant! No child should have to encounter this kind of daily struggle at such an early age! But the adults responsible for their care fell into two categories: (1) selfishly immature and (2) lovingly self-sacrificial.
Who among us would be so naive to think a government agency like DHS or CPS could have satisfied the lovingly self-sacrificial role? Like as not, they’d have farmed the boys out to just about anyone willing to house them (maybe together but more likely, separately) as long as the caretaker knew a regular government check was part of the arrangement. At its best, the state can never hope to replicate the hands and feet of Jesus.
Insofar as I know, my parents cared for these boys out of the goodness of their hearts and a small bit of cash Bob periodically contributed. There were times, I must confess, when I wished my parents weren’t so lovingly self-sacrificial. I myself was selfishly immature and I resented the attention the boys received from my parents. It was less time they could spend with my brothers and me. But even that resentment was small because I knew how desperately the boys needed loving “parents” like my mom and dad.
Years later, both boys returned to visit my folks. Each expressed his thanks for their unselfish devotion and giving spirits. (I don’t know where they are today.) Still, as unfortunate (and chaotic) as the re-homing may have been, I look back today and acknowledge there were two little boys who experienced a week-long dose of loving parents during an extended and vulnerable period of their upbringing … when they most needed it.