LAWRENCEVILLE — Helping others, especially children, is a passion for one family, which has led to the addition of a new family member.
Rob and Nicki Watson of Lawrenceville will celebrate this Thanksgiving with their sons, Alexander, 11, and Braxton, 12. It’s a blended family. Braxton is Rob’s son from another relationship. The couple adopted Alexander after he had been living with them for several years in CONCERN’s foster program.
Like all families there’s ups and downs, give and take, but it’s working. The two boys are like “night and day,” said Nicki.
Brown-haired, blue eyed Alex is gregarious, active and loves soccer, where he usually plays goalie but also managed to score four goals this past season. Tall, slender, brown-eyed Braxton is the quiet one, the reader who sometimes gets ruffled by the constantly-in-motion Alex.
“I like him being my brother, but he antagonizes me,” said Braxton with a smile toward his brother.
The story began in August 2013, when the Watsons decided to become foster parents. Nicki Watson, who worked with Head Start, became familiar with CONCERN’s program through their staff’s interaction with the children and families. She learned of the need for foster families, spoke with her husband and they decided to open their home to children in need.
“I like knowing we can care for a child who really does not have a great home, making sure they stay on track. We give them the stability, love and care they haven’t had,” said Nicki Watson.
In those six years, they have had five children stay with them, including Alex, who arrived Jan. 15, 2016, having just turned seven the previous November. Initially, the Watsons accepted infants to four years olds. After receiving full custody of Braxton, they expanded the age range to nine to accept children closer to his age.
From the very beginning, Alex was different. Most of the children came from Bradford or Tioga County; Alex came from a county in central Pennsylvania. The other children stayed for a few weeks or months until their goal had been met, whether that was a foster home that could accommodate siblings, reunification with parents or moving into a kinship care. Alex, however, was fostering with the goal to adopt.
“There are not that many options to adopt a foster child,” said Nicki Watson. “In the back of my head, I just knew. I put my heart and soul into him. We tried everything possible to meet his needs.”
Like all the children in their care, the Watsons take them to places, feed them, make sure they do their chores and homework, and have clothes and toys.
“They don’t come with a lot and they leave with tons of stuff,” said Rob Watson, noting that their most recent foster child, a two-year-old girl, arrived with a duffel bag and a book bag. She left with boxes of toys, clothes and swimsuits after successfully overcoming a fear of water.
It’s a busy life. The boys have various athletic teams with practices and games, along with school activities. They try to expose the children to a variety of places they haven’t experienced before: fairs, dirt track racing, zoos, even a mall can be a new experience for some.
“I like kids. If we can help them out for a day or a year, we’ll try to help them out and show them what life is about, taking them to different places, experiences,” said Rob Watson.
On Aug. 29, 2018, Alex changed his first and last name when a judge finalized his adoption. His behaviors have improved since coming to the Watsons, but more importantly, “I’m happy here,” he said.