And just like that, he’s gone. What happens when a foster child leaves?

What happens when a foster child leaves?

It’s been exactly one week since our foster tot left our home.

I was at a work function last Thursday morning when I received a phone call from the Department of Child Protective Services. Our child’s case worker had an update on our case; our child would be going home that night at 5 p.m.

That means we had just 5 hours to tell the kids, pack our tot’s things, and say our goodbyes.

Our foster tot was a great candidate for reunification, so we suspected this was coming.

We just didn’t know when. We had hoped we’d have more notice and more time to prepare.

Nate (my husband) was flying that day so he wasn’t around to say goodbye–which was heartbreaking.

I cried.

Our preschooler cried.

Our toddler was convinced this was just another visit and that her “brudder” (brother) would be coming back soon.

I cried mostly for the toddlers. With just seven months between them, the two two-year-olds struggled during their first weeks together. But during the last few weeks, they were best buddies. We’d go to the park or play dates and I’d notice the two of them off by themselves digging in the mulch, pushing each other on the swings, or laughing as they chased each other in circles.

I also cry every time I read this quote and think of our girls saying goodbye:

What happens when a foster child leaves your home

I wish I could show you one of the pictures of the girls hugging their “brother.” You’d probably cry too. But for his anonymity and protection, I’m leaving his picture out of these posts.

We began fostering with the hope of a long-term placement or a foster-to-adopt situation. But this placement was better than what we could have planned for ourselves. Our little guy was older than we intended, but he was an easy fit for our family. He loved bike rides and playing outside. He was easy-going and happy. And I know that the shorter placement period (just 10.5 weeks) will make it easier for all of us to recover from the pain of losing him.

Can you imagine having a child in your home for years and then have the child return to his/her birth family? It’s a possibility we were prepared to accept, but the pain would have been intense.

Yet even with the frustrations that come with working with DCPS and the pain of losing a child that was never ours, our story ends well.

I sent our foster tot home with a letter, a photo album, and my phone number.

And that night I got a text from his family.

His family member thanked us for how we cared for the child, told us they had cried while reading our letter, requested that we pray for their family, and ended with “every child deserves a family like yours.”

You need to know that we don’t deserve that thanks or praise. I’m not a born nurturer or super mom. The foster experience brought out our ugliness (like my need to control my schedule and how little it takes for us to get frustrated when we’re raising three young kids). But God is good even (and especially when) we are not. All of the credit for the good stuff goes to Him.

Also, if any person is exceptional in this story, it’s the bio family member who had the grace and humility to reach out to us and thank us. There are tons of exceptional foster parents who do commendable work, but that work largely goes unacknowledged by the bio families.

I never dreamed we’d be thanked. I never dreamed that we’d make plans to stay in touch with our foster tot because his bio family wanted us in his life. I never dreamed that fostering would end like this.

This was not how I planned things to go; it was better.


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