Grieving the loss of a placement
In Chapter 3 of my book, The Call to Love, I talk about how we told the children it was time for them to leave, and then driving them home. For most people this is the reason they will never consider foster care. "I would get too attached!"
The entire point of foster care is to pour your heart and soul into these kiddos. To give them love and safety and security and peace. To allow their biological family time to heal and grow and strengthen. And then, to reunite them all together again.
No matter if you believe in your heart this is the best decision for the child, or not. The moment you have to give that child away is heart wrenching. If you have done your job well it is horrible. The emptiness in your home is so real. Although our situation was quite unique, I have heard from many other foster parents that the feelings of grief can be overwhelming even when you are happy for the reunited family.
If you are a foster parent grieving the loss of a placement please make sure you go through all the emotions swelling up in your soul. Kubler-Ross talks about the different stages of grief and I feel that they so aptly relate to losing a placement, denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Have you felt these stages within you? Recognize them, experience them, cry through them.
And sometimes these emotions can become even more complicated if the foster parent didn't totally attach to the child. Perhaps the child was more work than they expected. Perhaps there is a sense of relief when the child is moved out. And then some guilt may set in. "How can I be a good foster parent if I feel glad they are gone?" Embrace those emotions as well. Find someone to talk this out. But know that these emotions as well are not unusual and it doesn't mean that you are a bad foster parent. It means this job is really really hard. And you are looking forward to a season of relief.
If you are a friend of a foster parent going through this season, comfort them as you would if it were a death. Check in with them. There is a chance they really are ok. But most of the time, they are not. Don't just ask what they need, but give them suggestions of what you'd like to do to walk with them through this season. Send them flowers, make them dinner, go for a walk together. One of the toughest parts for me was cleaning my car. It needed to be detailed. It was pretty gross from having two kids under two in it for a couple weeks. But it was so hard to clean up the messes these precious little girls had made. I wanted to donate some of the baby items we had, but the thought of doing it alone was depressing for me. Perhaps you can bring over a Starbucks and help them go through items they need to sort or pack up.
But fostermama or fosterdad, don't let the wave of emotions crashing over you now, cause you to give up. Don't let the pain of this goodbye prevent you from saying yes again. Take some time. Go away on a long weekend. Take a bath. If I can help, feel free to reach out and schedule a session for us to talk through what has happened. But most importantly... Rest.
Then... when you are ready... say yes. Say yes again.
Because if this hurts, you are doing it right. If this hurts, you are a great foster parent. And there is another little one out there that needs your healing home.