By: April Loomis
There is a time to laugh and a time to cry (Ecc. 3:4), and in foster care a time to say hello and a time to say GOODBYE. Lately, my heart has been lingering on the placements that don't work out or those that end in reunification before we are ready. Often adoption is our hearts' desire as we approach each placement. Today my goal is to focus on GOOD "Goodbyes." Sounds like a contradiction to some folks - I KNOW. I am sure if you have told any random stranger that you are a foster parent then you have gotten the all too familiar response, "Oh, I could never do that. I just couldn't let them go." I have been tempted to scream back, "Oh yea, well if you spent a week in my shoes you may BEG the caseworker to take them back! They are not ALL sweet and cuddly and anxious to be loved!" Of course, I say something a bit more political and polite as I am sure you do. However, I do know exactly what they mean. As I tuck my foster son, whom I have cared for and loved for 19 months, into bed each night I wonder what his future holds and IF I will be the mommy to take him to T-ball, graduation, his college dorm, etc... He is an adorable 2 1/2 year old blonde haired, blue eyed ball of ENERGY. We are only two weeks away from sitting before the judge to see if he will become our forever child or if he will head back to a biological mom he doesn't know. We do hope to adopt him before the year ends!
Now, on the flip side, adoption is not the only happy ending in foster care. I was reminded at a seminar recently of the goal of foster care - to REUNITE families after they have met their goals. I DO realize this is not even a remote possibility in MANY cases. Our job during the process is to love and protect children whom we did not birth. Often we do so without reserve and then hand them back over to their parents or a relative. This is the side I want to focus on today, GOOD "goodbyes!"
I have had the awesome experience of seeing the JOYFUL side of this process in my own placements as well as those of friends. Of course, I have shed tears over others, but that's another story.
I recall the first time I experienced a GOOD "goodbye" was with a friend who had fostered a sibling group. After 6 months, and hours of debate at court that day, they went home to an aunt and uncle who loved them and had been very active in their lives in the past. I remember well the excitement as we picked up the 6-year-old from school. She rounded the corner with a look of terror on her face and waited to hear the news. I have never seen such sheer delight on a child's face when she realized there was good news for her.
Our first placement was filled with many tears and much sorrow, but for one of the girls I was elated to be able to say goodbye. I couldn't even feel sad as I packed up our little Angel. She was a well adjusted 10-year-old (which is a rare find in FC) who had been in her grandparents' custody for 9 of her 10 years of life. That is, until mom took her out of state in the middle of the night and made many bad choices. The grandparents eagerly drove through 4 states for each of the 4 trial dates to be able to take their baby home. I was thrilled to be able to wrap my arms around that grandma and assure her that her angel was safe and protected until she could take her back home. It was beyond a GOOD "goodbye" when they came 4 months later and I was able to pack her up and send her HOME where she belonged. It was an experience that I am afraid few of us get to experience as foster parents.
Now on a different note. What about those of us who are fostering a child that is stretching our family beyond its limits and we cannot imagine the life we had before they entered it? Days seems like months with this child in our home. There is no peace and we feel like if we give up we have failed. NO! It's okay. Not every placement works out. Sometimes the stress is too much for you and your family. That particular difficult child may very well be another family's answer to prayer and their "forever child!" He/she deserves to be loved and cared for with tenderness and compassion, not just duty and pity. It is a painful decision and may be a tearful departure but it CAN be a GOOD "goodbye." You are not alone. Many of us foster parents have battle scars from such mini wars within our hearts.
Being a foster parent takes great courage and sacrifice and sometimes the ability to know when to let go. The cost is high to our families and rewards sometimes few, BUT you are making a difference. Never underestimate the influence you can have on ONE CHILD. Make each "hello" and each "goodbye" the best you can.
The next time you have to say "goodbye," I pray that you can relate to the JOY I feel when I think back to the happy reunions and GOOD "goodbyes!"
Thanks for letting me share my heart.