Monday, September 25, 2017

Why I Can Say Goodbye to My Foster Child

{As a foster parent I try to share the reality so that you may consider it as an option for yourself. Gary and I never thought we would be foster parents until about four years ago when someone planted the seed in our hearts and minds. The thoughts I have on fostering are my own and I cannot speak for all of the foster parents out there. I also cannot share the personal stories and facts about the children but hope that there is enough information to give you an idea of what fostering is all about and why I can say goodbye time after time.}

What is the number one comment that foster parents receive? "I wish I could foster but it would be too hard for me to say goodbye". I want to address this. I get it. I fully understand what you are saying and why. Who would invite a break-up into their lives? Who would want to go into a situation knowing ahead of time that their heart would be broken? I am an emotional woman. I cry happy and sad tears frequently. I lost my mom to cancer when I was just 26 so I understand loss and fear it. Is saying goodbye hard? Yes, but it doesn't stop me from getting attached and it can be filled with hope and happiness.

How can you say "goodbye" when fostering?


Over the past 2.5 years we have had four additional children in our home on top of our three biological ones. I have loved each and every one of them and I was able to let go of three so far without having my heart completely shattered. Why? For me, the reason I was and am okay is that the end goal was clear and that I am hopeful for their futures. The goal is not that they remain with us forever. I trust my role in their life was for a reason and I will do all I can for that child, and in turn their families, while they are in my care.

For the first three who left our home, I am able to stay in contact with the kids. Yes, it truly happens! I know it may not remain this way but for now I am thankful. Our first Little Love was with us for almost two years and I love him as my own – he still calls me Mommy and his mom even encourages it. I asked him if he wanted to call me Auntie now and he was absolutely shocked at the suggestion. We can see him whenever we like which is such a gift for all involved! To be honest, it is sometimes hard for me to see that opportunities, nutrition and routine are a little different than what we would provide but the love of his mother is priceless and irreplaceable and I do not worry about his safety. In most cases, the goal in fostering is to help the parent(s) attain the skills and support they need in order to raise their children. In this situation, that goal was met and we are available to help with continued support. What a success story! I am so proud of his mom and of our Little Love. There are happy tears in my eyes when I think about the journey we went on with them.

The next two came together just a few weeks later. Again, we fell in love. Our kids called them their brother and sister. I can't share their story but after three months they moved out of our home and we still get to see them and hear about how their lives continue to be transformed. We are so proud of them, maybe even more so than our own kids sometimes, because the obstacles they've had to overcome are so large. It is amazing what safety, being heard and knowing you are precious can do for someone– that is what every child needs. What a privilege it is to have been part of their story and to remain in it. 

And finally, our Littlest – a baby! After a short stay she will be leaving us soon, and again, I'm okay. There is no promise that I will ever see or hear about her again but I have hope and faith in the situation and in those that are watching over her. She wasn't mine to begin with and I'm just helping her and her family in a time of need. 

Don't get me wrong, saying goodbye makes me sad and the first time was particularly hard as I had never been through it before. I look through photos with tears in my eyes and yet our family relives so many happy, proud and humorous memories (kids are so great for comedic relief). After each child leaves, Gary and I look at each other and say "Okay, let's take a little break to regroup" and the kids always say "Can we have another foster brother or sister?!"– they love each child, see the big picture and know the child is not meant to be with us forever.

So, what is the hard part? Dealing with trauma, neglect, attachment and the Ministry to name a few. That is the real work and where so much of our emotional energy is spent over the days, months and years. That is what can hold me back from eagerly jumping back in time after time. My heart breaks for those things – their stories and a messy system – not the goodbyes. If there is healing and they are happy then I am too.

Understanding the goal is so important when going into fostering: we want forever homes whether it's with a waiting family through adoption or back with the biological family who has been working hard to have their kids home. Love and attachment in the meantime is inevitable and healthy and we always want to promote that even though it can hurt. The hope is that the child leaving will also have a transition period; we are fortunate to have had long and healthy transitions to help us, the children, and the homes that they are going to. I know there are many situations in which things do not work out and those are the ones that are often shared by the media but there are happy endings too. Maybe we've just been really fortunate so far but I do want our story to be heard. My kids will claim that they have ten brothers and sisters (which includes those we have done short-term relief for) because once you're in our family, you're in it, whether you're still physically here or not. Always in our hearts even if not in our home.

Love,
Louise

If you would like to learn more about fostering, please look into your local Ministry of Children and Families or talk to a foster parent like myself. For those here in B.C., check out this link for more information.

Please join us on Facebook for more discussions and feel free to pin here for later:

How foster parents can say goodbye. What is the true goal of fostering?



1 comment:

  1. I'm so with you on this! As hard as it might be, I think I would be okay with saying 'goodbye' because I understand the end goal. It's similar to my work where we go in, provide support and hopefully leave families with the tools they need to continue on their own with a child who has learned new skills and is more capable.

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