So many of us have watched Rebecca this past week, and have been reliving the losses of our own kiddos... For me in particular, the Booger Bear's... Losing that little boy was the hardest for me with him having been with me the longest. I went back and read things that I'd written and comments and words of encouragement from friends and family when I lost Booger a year ago. I read things that I'd written in the weeks after he'd gone as I grieved and tried to get over the hurt. It felt so strange that the raw emotion of that loss came back so strong even though the Booger and his family are now such a huge, amazing part of my life.
I've spent quite a bit of time this week thinking about how messed up the foster care system is too. It never ceases to amaze me how it takes months and months to get anything accomplished in a case, but when it comes to sending children who have been in long term placements back to their parents, there is no consideration given to the children or to the families who have loved and raised them for the past year or more. The move often happens with little or no warning and often with no transition at all. I don't know why it still surprises me after all this time. Nothing else does any more.
I've had children leave my home in many different ways. The only one I have not had an experience with is in knowing ahead of time that a child is being returned to the home that they were removed from in the first place. I knew the day before she left that the Munchkin was going to a foster home that was better suited for her needs. I had a little time to prepare, write out detailed notes for her new foster parents, and to say goodbye to her. Angel's situation was just messed up in every way possible. Her "transition" into her new foster home was a fast one (like overnight), but it needed to be for everyone's sake. With Little Miss and Itty Bitty, I'd been given some warning a few days ahead of time. I'd been told there was a hearing "on Monday" (no word on what time), and that "chances were good that the girls would be placed with their dad." I had packed up some of their things, but waited until I heard back from their caseworker after court to finish up. Turned out I had one hour, and just enough time for their caseworker to load the car to say goodbye.
The most difficult and most screwed up case was the Booger Bear's. In the weeks leading up to the court hearing, I had been told by CPS, my agency, and the Booger's attorney that they were getting a 3 month extension in order to start overnight visits and transitioning the Booger to his daddy. I had completely accepted that. I was sure that would be easier for everyone because Booger had never spent longer than 9 hours with his dad, and overnights were going to be a big adjustment for both of them. What I was not prepared for was getting to court that day and finding out literally 30 seconds before entering the courtroom that Booger was moving permanently to his father's house effective immediately. No transition. No extra day or two to say goodbye or to let my friends and family say goodbye. Just "well, today's his dad's visitation day anyway, so he can just stay there." If I had known that there was even a chance that he wasn't coming home, I would have taken the day off of work and spent it with my baby! Turned out, I dropped my baby off at daycare that morning and never saw him again (at least, that's what I thought at the time...).
I honestly don't know which would be harder. Losing a child the way I lost Booger Bear, or the way Rebecca lost Jacket. I try to think about how it would have been knowing exactly when I was going to lose him, and I almost think it would have been more difficult. To look at him knowing that I only had hours left... Trying to be strong for him and not let him see my grief... At least I know that the last time my baby boy saw me before he left my home, I was smiling, happy, and telling him how much I loved him. I didn't have to grieve for him before he was gone. I can only imagine how hard it is to know days ahead of time the exact moment that you'll be saying goodbye.
There is so much loss in foster care. No matter what the situation is, someone is always grieving a loss. The loss of a child... The loss of a parent... The loss of a home or a way of life... I think the comment that foster parents hear most often is "I don't know how you do it. I could never let them go!" Sometimes I feel like people think that foster parents have some kind of supernatural power that allows us to love these kids with all that we have and then be okay when they leave, but that's not the case at all. We are just like anyone else. We grieve... Deeply... But we love deeply too. And for me, the love for my kids outweighs the pain of losing them.
"I hold it true, whate'er befall;
I feel it, when I sorrow most;
'Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all."
~Alfred Lord Tennyson
On the day that I lost Booger Bear, I asked, "Please pray that J isn't too scared or confused, and that he will be okay without me. Please pray that my arms don't feel this empty forever, and that my heart can be mended enough to help some other baby who needs me..." Today, I ask that you pray the same for Jacket and Rebecca, and all of the other foster families who are currently suffering these losses. I know how much they hurt... But I also know how much they love...