Caring for the medically fragile: Still just a child who needs a loving home

Becky Delp and her husband have fostered children in the past, but for the first time, they are providing care for a medically fragile child. Although she had some concerns at first, those passed quickly as she gained confidence in her ability to manage the little boy’s needs and her family embraced him.

At first, I thought: I’m not qualified, I’m not trained.

Andy* needed to be fed through a g-tube when he first came to us. He was born prematurely and spent his first six months in the hospital and then went to a special facility. He had cancer and a weakened immune system. He has chronic lung disease. He needed physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy. It felt overwhelming.

But you’re not on your own. We got training through the hospital and nursing care agency. A nurse stayed at our home every night. Because Andy was under the age of three, his therapy visits were done in our home. We got great support from our Diakon caseworker. Someone was always available to help.

Caring for a medically fragile child does entail extra steps from the foster family. There are lots of appointments. With the nurse there every night, we had to get used to having someone else in our home. But the nurses quickly became like family and their expertise was priceless. As a foster family, you go with the flow anyway.

Even though Andy is considered medically fragile, he’s still a child who needs a loving home. His medical issues don’t change the fact that he is a three-year-old boy who is like any three-year-old boy in many ways. We try to make his life as normal as any child his age. He is mobile and we take him places with us and see that he has the chance to play with other kids.

In fact, we have four children of our own. The oldest two girls are married and on their own; our 21-year-old son, Jake, and 10-year-old son, Micah, are still at home. Jake is busy and has a full-time job, but finds time to spend with Andy. Micah likes to help me entertain him. It didn’t take long for Andy to become part of our family.

We have become attached to Andy and while that was important for us to do, we also will have to let him go. The plan for him is to go home to his birth family at some point. He’ll soon be ready for school and he’ll be able to do that with them.

I admit that I was a little scared at first, but I soon realized: I can do this. Our family can do this. As a medical assistant, I have worked in a hospital labor and delivery unit and in home care. I also help take care of my brother, who has cerebral palsy. I think I truly understand what it means to provide care. It means you have a caring heart.

*Name changed to protect privacy.

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