Foster Care Changed Me: Confessions of a Foster Sister

by Kai Joseph

Foster care is grueling, emotional and overall just a huge bumpy roller coaster, yet it’s such a beautiful thing no matter the outcome. Foster care has made me into a better sister and friend while preparing me for adulthood.

I became a foster sister around the age of 9. It started when my mom asked how I’d feel sharing my home with another kid. My mother always said I was the second mom of the house and I’ve always thought of myself as a fairly kind person. Knowing I would help a family in need was all the convincing it took. My family grew quickly within a couple of years. We went from being an average family, two parents and three kids, to a rotating roster of kids every year. Due to starting this process at such a young age, foster care has shaped me into the person I am today.

It’s a known fact that kids are not a fan of sharing. Things like toys, food and their bedroom feel sacred — but imagine how difficult it is for kids to share their parents’ love. As one of the oldest in my family, I’ve had that experience. I know how it feels not to be my parents’ sole focus, and I’m OK with that. However, my 7-year-old sister Jasmine struggled with our parents’ decision. It probably didn’t help that Lulu, the first little girl who came to live with us, was four days older than Jasmine. I could see the jealousy radiating off of her, who for the first time in her life, wasn’t the main character in our family. We all coped in different ways so I can’t speak on her behalf.

I personally enjoyed having another sister around. She was quiet, reserved and incredibly sweet. We would dance to loud music or laugh about nonsense. I remember celebrating holidays with her. The joy that lit up her face when opening Christmas gifts, blowing out candles on her very own cake, or dyeing Easter eggs rainbow colors are memories I’ll treasure. The small gifts are what counts. It showed me the common blessings in my life could become a brand new experience for someone else. In a way, it allowed me to relive the excitement.

It would be golden if each child arrived with their own personal guidebook with all their loves and hates, their favorite TV characters, or even a description of their personality, but each and every kid is different, and they can’t be parented the same.

Lulu returned to her mom after living with us for 11 months. Our family waited and wondered who would come next and after a few weeks of being an ordinary family again, we got the call that changed everything.

There was a big age difference from Lulu and our next child, Kira. Lulu was 7 years old when she lived with us, but Kira was only 3. Kira’s hair is like fire-red ringlets and she has pale skin with a couple of freckles scattered across her cheeks. My mom used to call them kisses from the sun. And if there was one kid to be kissed by the sun it would be her! She embodied the sun inside and out. From her outward appearance to her bold personality. Kira made herself known wherever she went and we learned to adapt to her, growing to love her bold personality and taking notice of her loves and hates. Our family loved Kira with all of our hearts.

Then we got “the call” again, for Kira’s little sister Tasha, who was only 18 months old. Just like we adored Kira, we adored Tasha. She was our squishy bundle of joy! She has hair that bounces every which way and giggles that echoed throughout the house as she wobbled around. Having a baby in the house was even stranger than having a toddler. We had to sacrifice a lot for Kira and Tasha. Our room that used to just be me and Jasmine now occupied four girls. It was pure chaos. We all had to get our shots updated because Tasha was younger than 2. Having really young siblings taught me the skill of caring for babies, and not all people are given that opportunity.

By 5th grade I knew how to prep a bottle, hold a baby, put kids to sleep, and more. Our journey with them was long and emotional. There was a lot of back and forth with their bio parents. I remember the week it was over. They were told to return to their biological family. After four years with our family, the pain of their leaving was like ripping my beating heart from my chest and stomping on it. But, after some time their dad changed his mind and the sisters rejoined our family, this time through adoption.

It’s been almost three years since we adopted the girls and we’re still friends with their bio parents. You would assume my parents would chill out on fostering kids and close their license, but nope. We have done foster care for infants across the board; some were just a couple months old. They all were incredibly unique.

With one little girl we learned to see the beauty in Down Syndrome as well as how to feed a baby after heart surgery. She made my bad days good, and she has always stuck with me. I got very attached to her and I cried buckets when she went home.

At the moment, we have the cutest kid! He’s our teddy bear and he’ll make your heart melt. When he lights up, his smile goes from ear to ear. These kids make all the noise, responsibility and even dirty diapers worth it. I know my mother is doing what she’s been called to do and it makes me happy that I can assist her in any way, shape, or form.

Often young people like me who have had to parent siblings at such a young age will avoid having kids of their own, but not me. I watch my parents love and nurture children who aren’t even their blood and that empowers me. Seeing the happiness they bring to these kids is great, but it’s powerful to see the hospitality they extend to the bio parents as well.

My mom and dad have always been loving people, they never wanted their bio kids to feel replaced. No matter how many kids come through our home, they never seemed to run out of love. Seeing how selfless they can be encourages me to follow in their footsteps. I would love to one day have a safe space for kids to grow.

Foster care will always be hard, but who doesn’t like a good challenge? Having this be part of my story has made me think more deeply about others. I truly can’t imagine where I would be if our family didn’t take this path. I’m 15 and have the skills of a new mother and the love of one, too. I have the mindset to give up my free time to watch these babies and I wouldn’t change it for the world.


Kai Joseph lives near Seattle and attends high school. She has been dedicated to journaling for many years. She loves to create art and is a huge bookworm.