Friday, November 8, 2013

"Foster Friday" Panel - Saying Goodbye

The world of foster care is full of "goodbyes."  Foster parents, birth parents, family members, friends, and most of all, the children have to say goodbye to people they love time and time again.  This month our "Foster Friday" panel touches on their personal goodbyes.  For some, the emotions are still raw as their goodbyes have been recent.  For others, what they thought were goodbyes turned out to be new beginnings.

"How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard."  ~Winnie the Pooh


Debbie (Always and Forever Family) -

March 2012 we knew we would soon be saying goodbye to our foster daughters who we cared for and loved for almost 5 months. We were happy to see them united with their Grandpa but at the same time very sad to say goodbye.

As I was packing up the things for our little Ladybug who had just turned 2 she sat on our bed with me and looked at me questioningly. I tried as best I could to explain to her that in two nights she would be sleeping at her Papa's house but how can you really explain that to a 2 year old. She started picking up her things and asking me if it would go with her. I answered yes and then she picked up her doll. I was reminded of how little they came with when she and her older sister came to our home 5 months earlier. This doll was one of the things. The emergency foster mom had purchased it for her. She was so attached to this doll I hunted down a second one for fear of this one being lost. This was her security item. It was then that I scooped her up and held her tight. To reassure her of my love and trying for a moment to just stop time and keep her safe from anymore loss and pain.

Two days later we loaded our van with all their things and barely had room enough for all of us. We spent some time with the family and even had dinner together before it came time for goodbye. I told our almost 4 year old daughter to say goodbye to her sisters. And then we watched as she walked over to this precious Ladybug whom she had struggled with loving while she was with us and she gave her the sweetest hug knowing just how much she was going to miss her.

We tried to hold back our tears as we prepared to walk out the door. The oldest was doing great and understood what was going on. Little ladybug however wasn't all that clear. We had visited their home before a few times but she always came home with us. As we opened the door to leave she was in her Papa's arms and we said "Goodbye Ladybug" and she finally realized what was going on. She turned quickly to look at us with concern as we closed the door. All we could do was cry as we walked back to our empty van for the long quiet drive home.

Thankfully, it wasn't goodbye, it was only see you later. We have seen them a few times since that day and were even able to be there when their grandparents finalized their adoptions earlier this year.



Dena (Momat40.com) -

Saying goodbye is a really difficult subject for me right now, so this post has been hard for me to even start.  On September 27th, my Baby Girl left to go live with a great grandmother.  I’ve had to say goodbye to other foster children but none of them affected me the way this one did.  From the moment that I found out about it, I tried to prepare myself mentally for the moment that I would have to say goodbye to this child who had been my complete joy for the last 16th months.   The day before she left, we took her to dinner at her favorite restaurant and then took her back to my parents so that she could run and play.  She loved playing in my mom and dads sunroom.  When it came time to leave, my mom and dad gave her big hugs and kisses and then I took her home.  We played a little at home, and then it was time to put her to bed.  The next morning I woke her up and got her ready for school and took her to school as normal.  The only difference is that this time, I wasn’t going to be picking her up in the afternoon.  After I dropped her off, I was an emotional wreck.  

Over the next few weeks, I tried to be strong for my new foster daughter (she arrived on 9/23, so I didn’t want to take the chance of upsetting her).  However, I don’t think I really believed that she wasn’t coming home until this past weekend.   Once I turned over her things to the caseworker, I just piled my baby gear into her room and shut the door so that I didn’t have to look at it.   Probably not the healthiest thing to do, but I wanted to be strong.  When it hit me this weekend, I decided that the first thing I needed to do was tackle her room.  

Just recently, a friend of mine told me that I could pull some pictures together to add to her file in the event that when she turns 18 and requested them, she could learn about her time with me.  That fact has really helped me over the last couple of days, so I have been preparing some pictures of my family and I with her.  It’s bittersweet to look through those old pictures, but I honestly have to say that I feel better knowing that if she ever requests it she will be able to know just how much I love her.   Every person grieves differently but for me, it’s more about remembering the good times and then focusing on the positive that I had 16 amazing months with a beautiful child who completely changed my life.  

Now, I’m trying to move on and looking into straight adoption from other foster care agencies.  Fingers crossed that I will soon be able to fill this hole in my heart.  



SWrkr24/7 (Eyes Opened Wider) -

Wow, tough topic! But one I have been thinking about more and more as I anticipate a long term placement. 

So far, good-byes have been relatively easy. None of my voluntary placements have stayed longer than a week, most more like two to three days. So, while I always adore playing, snuggling, and nurturing each one - it is very easy to keep the end goal in sight. 

But as I keep hoping for a long term (someday adoptive) placement, I admit it is getting harder to let them go. That was definitely the case with my mos recent placement. Five months old and so darling. I called her "The Magical Sleeping Baby" because she was SUCH a good sleeper. (Having a non sleeper is my biggest parenting fear!) 

But I really hoped she might end up being a long term placement. Not that it is at all appropriate to hope that a child can't be safe in her parent's care! In fact, even as I hoped I felt guilty! But I was still very sad when it became clear that the eventual plan was for her to go to her aunt. 

Until I met her Aunt. 

She was wonderful. She was loving and nurturing. She was so excited to have her niece come stay with her. 

And while my hope melted away...I was filled with a sense if peace. 

I believe children belong with their families. If they can't be with their parents, extended family is the next best thing. Keeping my focus on my core values about family is imperative for me to get through all the goodbyes that foster care is likely to throw at me. 

At least until the child comes and I don't have to say goodbye. 




Karen A. (Nuggets from the Nut House) -

The feeling of "goodbye" is fairly fresh- Savon left our family two weeks ago today, at the time I'm writing this. Our goodbyes have been so different. The one that devastated and damaged us the most was our first...

Piglet had been with us for ten months. Mom and I took her and dropped her off at her parents for what was to be her first overnight visit. I don't think we even had a planned return date, visits were just being increased and we were going to see how things went. When Mom and I arrived back home after dropping Piglet off, my little sister was crying. Dad came into the kitchen and quickly told us why. Piglet's parents' worker had called. The judge had signed some paper, and she was officially back in the custody of her parents. Wait, she was in the custody of her parents. She had been with us since birth, so they had never had custody for her to go "back" to. I can't even describe the emotions we went through. The only reason we are still fostering is because of Piglet's parents' reaction. They said it wasn't right, that we didn't get a chance for a proper goodbye. They wanted us to come pick her up the next day as we were supposed to! We did. We've maintained a very unique relationship with Piglet's family. Since then, she's come back to us- many times to visit, and then one day as an official foster placement. Then we said goodbye again (I said goodbye over Skype as she left the night before I came home from finishing my year at university). And since that second goodbye, we've had her come for more visits so that we can continue to be there for Piglet and her family- wherever the future takes us. 

Thankfully, we haven't had any real "goodbyes". As I've said, we've maintained close contact with Piglet and her family. With our second, B, we've had some contact- some phone calls, a Christmas visit, and attending her first birthday. Since Savon went home recently, we have not had contact with his dad yet. We don't want to scare off Savon's dad, or make him feel like we're intruding or examining him. We want to wait for a visit so that Savon has time to bond with his daddy.


One practical way to ease the transition for the baby is that sometimes Mom will sleep with a few receiving blankets before the baby leaves. That way they smell like her, and when baby goes home, their caregiver can use those blankets for comfort in the early days. When one of our babies goes to their "forever home", we send along the outfit that they came home from the hospital in (for the ones that applies to). We put it in a Ziploc bag and label it. We also buy Baby's 1st Christmas ornaments for each of our babies- 2 identical ornaments for each baby, and we pick ones that can hold photographs. One ornament goes on our tree each year, and the other ornament goes with the baby when they leave. The last "goodbye tradition" we have is so special to our family. We go to Build-a-Bear. We get a sound piece, and gather around it as a family. We record ourselves saying, "We love you, ______!" That sound piece goes in the hand of whichever teddy we choose for that baby. The staff has been so great with us when we do it. Having us rub our dreams into tiny velvet hearts, kiss it for all the boo-boos to come, hug it for when they need a friend, and on an on. Yes, we cry. For Piglet, her Molly bear has been with her through a lot since she left us. And when needed, a simple squeeze of the hand will remind our babies of the message we want them to always remember, "We love you, _____!"


4 comments:

Nicole said...

Beautiful, beautiful collection of stories!

kellyH said...

Thank you for sharing. We've had 7 foster kids and have gone through devastating goodbyes as well. We know we are not alone and are thankful for those who continue in this jodespite the hardships.

Cherub Mamma said...

I really wanted to write for this. But right now I'm in the middle of a long, drawn-out, horrible goodbye that I didn't get enough time for and I didn't know what to say. But after I read the entries above, I decided to hijack Tammy's comment section. I realized that I want to share here something that has helped us in our goodbye.

Allow yourself to grieve! Know that your feelings are normal. Yes...you signed up to foster and with fostering comes goodbyes. But knowing that something is most likely going to happen doesn't really make it any easier.

Our recent goodbye involved two cherubs that had lived with us for 27 months (OVER TWO YEARS) being told that they were flying out permanently with less than five hours to say goodbye. The situation they were sent to is not proven to be safe. And because we intervened in their case...we're still technically involved. So, we had to say goodbye. The kids don't live with us. They moved half-way across the state. But we're not "done". In fact, we get some phone contact. It's court ordered though and monitored by CPS so it's far from comforting.

A practical thing that we implemented was a "grief wall". My two youngest forever kids were hurt horribly by how Dude and Dolly were ripped out of our home. But at ages 8 and 9, they didn't have words for all their powerful emotions. I put six postcard-sized papers on the wall with sticky-tack and wrote the six stages of grief on them. My two youngest boys and I each took a smaller piece of paper and put our names on them. Because we used sticky-tack, we could move these names around and that's just what we did.

If something happened that made us angry, we'd move our name under the postcard that said angry. If I found myself in denial that the kids were gone permanently, I moved my name under that card. It was a visual way for us to communicate our feelings without having to sit down and talk about each and every transition. I also made sure to move my name around a lot (grief is not linear) and I'd mention how I was feeling and why. I modeled for my boys healthy grieving as opposed to getting stuck.

Fostering goodbyes can be happy if you see that the children are going somewhere where they will be safe and loved. Fostering goodbyes can also be horrifically scary and traumatic. You're not alone in this though. Our names have hung out in the space between depression and acceptance for quite awhile now. I know that we'll come out on the other side. Dude and Dolly will live in our hearts forever.

allmypretty said...

I can't even breathe thinking of having to say goodbye to my baby right now. I can't deal with even imagining it. I will fall apart and no one will be able to put me back together. Ugh.

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