My foster-brother attended a foster support group every week, where other kids in foster situations would meet up, and hash out their issues. Somehow one of the agents for a New York based talk show got in contact with the leader of this group, and wanted to use one of the “troubled teens” and their family on his show. The leader helped him get in contact with a foster kid, and her family, who agreed to do the show. At the last minute the family decided not to do it, and the agent still had a spot to fill. For one reason or another my brother was the one they decided would be perfect, and the next day we were flown off to New York, and picked up in a stretch limo.
The show was going to be about a group of teenagers who are out of control, and are forced to spend one day in jail. The show would be taped over two days, and the teenagers would spend one night in jail, and hopefully have a lifesaving moment where they decide to be better people.
The first day of taping arrived, and we were picked up from our hotel in a limo, and taken to the television studio, where we were put in a little sitting room. My parents and my brother went through makeup, and my siblings and I were escorted out to the audience to watch the show. They paraded several families in front of the talk show host, each with an out of control teenager, who would come on stage fully pumped and ready to argue. The producers sat backstage with the kids before they went on, and told them to be angry, and to tell their parents how they really felt, and to really let it all go.
When my family came on, my brother came out all puffed up and pissed off, and my mom cried about how she loved him so much, but he was just out of control. My dad sat there and agreed, and my brother let it all out. He talked about how he didn’t love anyone, and how he had no real family, and said some fairly hurtful things. I was only about 11 at the time, and got very upset to hear my brother say all of this, I felt betrayed, like he didn’t love me as a sister, or feel like we were family. I didn’t understand that he had been riled up before they went on air, and I got pretty upset. Apparently crying little sisters make for good ratings, because before I knew it, the cameras were on me and a producer with a microphone walked over and asked why I was crying. I explained that my brother had upset me, and how I loved him like a brother even though we weren’t related, blah blah blah.
After the show finished taping the first talking segment, the kids were escorted off to some local prison. The show gave the impression that they were there over night, and learned some lessons from hard criminals. In reality they went to the jail, taped the necessary segments, and then took the kids out to dinner.
The next day we taped the last sit down segment. The families were paraded once again, and the kids came out more docile than before, with promises to do better. They all apologized to their parents and swore off their trouble making. My brother came out and apologized to my parents, and took the time to call me from the audience and apologize to me. He told me that he loved me as a sister very much, and didn’t mean the things he had said. Even though it was just a talk show moment, it did mean a lot to me. I was a kid and he was my older brother, and I looked up to him.
Having a foster-brother really changed my understanding about what made a family. I’ve come to believe that a family isn’t just made of blood related people, but also of the people a family absorbs into their home and heart. I think over time even friends can become family. If you’ve been close with a friend for more than half your life, could you say they don’t know you better than your own family? Or love you just as much? How can you really define what makes a family?
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