Foster Care: Saying Goodbye to our First Placement

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Our first foster placement, a 5-year old boy, came barreling into our lives the day after Labor Day.  We had no idea what to expect and were, frankly, a little terrified at the prospect of going from no kids to a 5-year old overnight. Now, 5 weeks and 1 day later, we’re saying goodbye as that sweet boy heads back home.

“I could never be a foster parent. I would never be able to say goodbye to the kids.” That’s what AJ and I hear most often when we tell people we are foster parents. I’m not sure if they think we are just heartless and made of stone and we have no emotions, or if they think we just have some superhuman emotional strength that they don’t possess. Either way, the result is the same: many people do not consider foster carer because “saying goodbye” would be too hard.

Yes, there are times when a child is returning to a situation that you might personally feel is unsafe. Unfortunately, that happens a lot. There are times when a placement is disrupted because the child is not the right fit for your family (i.e., behavior issues may be too much to manage). There are times when you might have believed that you were on the path to adopting the child and then the goal of Social Services suddenly changes back to reuniting the child with their family. Those are hard circumstances and I’m not qualified to speak on them – we have never experienced those situations. But I want to offer a different perspective, so that people know there is something out there in between “My heart is shattered into a thousand pieces” and “Thank goodness that hellion is gone.”

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Hellions don’t help fix cars

In this case, we are truly, genuinely excited for our foster son to be returning home. It’s not because we want our lives back (although I do look forward to occasionally sleeping past 7 am) or because he was poorly behaved (he wasn’t). We’re excited for him because it means he will be back with the family that he loves and that loves him! We truly believe that when it is safe (and of course, it is not always safe), it is always best that a child be with their biological family. We have been blessed to develop an awesome relationship with his biological mom and siblings during his time with us. We have come to know them as people, to understand what they are struggling with, and to see them do their best to change their circumstances. For us, fostering isn’t just about fostering kids, it’s about fostering families – offering support when we can (and when it is appropriate) and helping families get back on their feet.

So, to see a family succeed is exciting! Knowing that our little guy gets to go home and be tucked in every night by his mom, who loves him very much, and be surrounded by his siblings – we could not be more thrilled. With that said, of course, we will miss him. There’s something very special about your first foster placement, and we will certainly never forget the impact he has made on us. He has taught us so much about ourselves and the world in just 5 short weeks. And, I take comfort in knowing that we have made an impact on him, too – he told his mom yesterday that he wants us (including the dog) to come to his next birthday party. As I tucked him in last night, he said “Daniel, when I go home, can you live with me at my house too?” 5 weeks later and he still doesn’t quite know my name, but at least he knows I love him. That’s what matters, right?

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Sunday runs won’t be quite the same without him

In truth, this has been the best possible transition that we could have possibly had. We found out a week beforehand that he would be leaving (that’s basically unheard of – normally, you have maybe a few hours notice), and I was able to coordinate directly with his bio mom so that we can drop him off at home, leaving the social workers out of it. All told, it couldn’t be a better situation, which is really what can be said of this entire placement. We were really eased into foster care big time, and while that doesn’t mean every second (or any second) has been easy, we couldn’t have asked for a much better first placement.

So this morning, for the first time, we’re waking up without our little guy, who inevitably would have crawled into our room to sleep on the couch by now. There will be no giggles as I help him brush his teeth, no begging me to please let him bring his giant stuffed animal to school, and no “one more hug” for the dog on the way out the door. But at home – his home – there will be all of those things. So today, we are celebrating. See you at your 6th birthday, kiddo.

 

22 thoughts on “Foster Care: Saying Goodbye to our First Placement

  1. Aw…this is so great. You and AJ are amazing human beings and I hope you know that! Any child that GETS to live in your home is the one who is blessed. So glad this situation was basically a dream in terms of the little guy returning home. May all your placements be this good!!

    1. We are very happy that we were able to help out a family who needs it! Thank you for the sweet words! I doubt they’ll all be this easy, but we can hope, right?

  2. I am so thrilled that you guys got such a great first foster experience. I know several people who have done it and the experiences have run the gamut of good and bad and everything in between – but that is just how life rolls.

    He has given you memories to cherish, and you have given him love and security just when it was needed – and being ‘Daniel’ is just one of those fun things you will always laugh about.

    1. Yes, there is a huge range of experiences! Just like giving birth to a baby though, I’d think. Some are easy, some are hard, but they all leave an impression on you one way or the other!

    1. Thanks, Patty! It has been a huge blessing for us and we feel very lucky to help out in this way.

  3. What a beautiful post Danielle. Even in five weeks, you will never forget him because he was your first placement, and you and AJ made an impact on his life as well.

    I hope that all goes well as he returns home too.

    1. Thank you! We will definitely never forget him. He’ll probably forget us, but that’s ok 🙂 As long as he is happy and healthy, we’re good!

  4. I couldn’t have been more proud of the way you took care of him, nurtured him and made him feel so special!! You made your momma proud and a little teary reading this. Thanks for that btw, it’s not like I’m no emotional enough at this time! I love you my baby girl, and know someday you will both make amazing parents, if it’s in the cards 🙂

    1. Thanks, mom. I had a great role model! Sorry I made you cry, but that’s not exactly hard to do 🙂

  5. Danielle, this was so beautifully written! I admire you and AJ and hope this experience will inspire many others! Thank you for sharing!

  6. I listened to your podcast interview with Ali last week when I was running…I got so weepy I had to stop running because I couldn’t breathe. I love that you’ve done this, I’m so grateful there are people like you guys in this dark, grim world. You did a good job with this little man, you did it well. Enjoy the extra sleep.

    1. Aww, thank you so much, Cathryn! I’m sorry I made you cry! I’m so glad you enjoyed (kind of) the podcast and we really appreciate your support!

  7. I’m so happy both for him and for you guys! I’m so glad he got to return home. On the burn unit, I saw kids taken away from their parents. I also saw children who I wondered if it was truly safe for them to be at home. Both are heartbreaking, but it’s great when people are able to make some changes to get their family back.

    If you do another post, I’d be interested in knowing how it works with the birth family – does contact/visitation depend on why the child was taken away? Are the families usual close (in distance) to where foster placements are?

    1. That’s true, I bet you saw a lot during your time as a nurse! I never really thought about that aspect of foster care – I’d imagine a lot of the initial reports come from doctors and nurses. The circumstances of why kids come into care are never positive, but moments like this are definitely a cause for celebration!

      That’s a great question and I’ll make sure to answer it in more detail in a future post. The short answer is yes, contact/visitation depends at first on why they were taken away. Sometimes there is no visitation at all, like in severe abuse cases, and sometimes, there is a lot, as in our case or as would be the case in maybe a drug addiction or poverty issues. Contact and visitation also changes throughout the time the child is in care depending on how close they are to being reunified with their parents (ie the closer they are, the more frequent/long the visits are). In terms of distance, they do their best to place the kids as close to home as possible, but it really depends on the resources the county has. Our placement actually lived very close to us, but our county has a lot of foster homes (still a shortage, but comparatively a lot). The surrounding counties are very rural and have far fewer resources, so it is very hard for kids from those counties to be placed near home. For example, 70% of kids in the county next door that are in foster care are placed outside their county. So, in theory, your placement could be from 10 minutes away or the complete opposite side of the state – it just depends on where they can find an open bed.

  8. This truly truly touched me. I love that his home situation was one that was safe for him to return to, and that his family really wanted him back! This isn’t always going to be the case, but I’m so glad that you were able to experience that and to help them out during what could have been an excruciating time otherwise

    1. Yes! It was the best case scenario all the way around. I know it won’t always be like this, but it’s nice to know these situations do exist.

  9. I hope your next placement will get along with Juanfer just as great. This time we need to plan a wine night too 🍷🍷 I really enjoyed watching you Mom it up!!! You do a great job.

    1. Thanks so much, Kayla! You guys were a huge blessing to us during this placement. I’ll see what we can do about getting another buddy for Juanfer – and wine night for sure!!

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