Foster parent blog : the heartbreak of letting children go

Posted: Tuesday 6th September 2016

Fostering A Year On! We made the life changing decision to become foster carers and myself to be a full time foster carer just over a year ago. Oh boy what a year!!

Since panel and being ratified we have now been a foster carer to 1 child and 2 newborn babies and let me tell you I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE MY JOB ! Yes its hard work, draining and all consuming BUT, its mostly rewarding, happy, endearing and darned heart wrenching in a very positive way.

To put it into perspective since having 'the placements' (we now know all the jargon):I've noticed how many people have asked me what being a foster parent really involves - what it is all about. They want to know how you go about becoming a foster parent, and what happens to you and your family when you open your heart and home to someone else´s child. I constantly hear the words "how do you give them up" to which I answer "I know it is difficult but, there you go"...However, the reality is, you learn through the excellent training & support provided that they’re not yours in the 1st place and your part of a very large team all dealing with the same thing.

I remember talking to an old school friend about fostering in general and realised that some people have misconceptions about what being a foster parent entails. Sure, they say, they´d just love to be a foster parent. They can picture themselves opening their home to some poor, skinny waif, feeding them, and living happily ever after. But, we have learnt there´s more to it than that. For instance, if you value your freedom, if you like coming and going at will, perhaps being a foster parent is not for you. I mean a Looked After Child (LAC) can be very time consuming. They come to you with built-in problems, but, we try to remember THEY are frightened, and regardless of their situation and the reason they've been placed with us, coming to complete strangers makes them afraid. So of course their going to require more of your time and care than a natural born child would, at least until they become adjusted to being with you. And don´t expect that adjustment to come quickly. It can take months. However, in that time you are building a positive attachment to the child and by doing so you are allowing the child to learn how to trust you and let their guard down and thus allowing them the freedom to love unconditionally and for them to build positive attachments as well.

That´s another matter to consider. When you have a LAC child, you know that you will eventually have to give them up. If you are going to care for the child properly, then you must let yourself love them. You cannot hold back your love for them, because more than food, clothing, and a place to sleep, these children need love. There’s a reason roller coaster imagery is widely used to describe foster parenting. And yet, you can’t hold yourself back emotionally from the kids; they deserve nothing less than 100%. You have to be emotionally committed to the children in your care. If you’re not fully invested in them, and...

If your heart doesn’t break when they leave, you’re doing it wrong.

I have heard from other carers during social occasions (coffee mornings etc.) that some placements are more difficult than others, and some kids are harder to love, but I personally think if you never grieve or feel a sense of loss when a child leaves your home, you have no business being a foster parent.

So you love the child and in a sense they come to be your own, or at least part of your family unit. And yet, always in the back of your mind is the thought that this child will someday leave you. I know as we are right there at this moment with baby number 2. Occasionally a child will enter your home and remain there until they are grown. But, most likely there will come a day when you will have to watch the child/baby be taken to another home. And part of you goes with them, a very large part. The grief you will feel at that time can be just as deep and real and profound as if your own natural-born child was taken from you. It hurts a lot..

But, being a foster carer also means doing something so rewarding, so vital, so important with your life that there is no way to measure the blessings that heap up around you. Even as you vow never to take in another one, never to allow yourself to become so involved with another child again only to have to face the heartbreak of giving them up. Even as you say "Never again," you are waiting for a call from the duty team saying they have a new child who needs a loving, caring home.

Being a foster parent means that you are working in the greatest profession there is--Life. It means your home will be filled with love and tears and laughter. It means drying a frightened child´s tears, teaching him/her to smile and to respond to love. It means walking the floor at night with a precious newborn baby. It means watching that child grow and develop into a young person whom eventually will be moving out into their own home.

Being a foster parent means you are a wonderful human being, giving these kids a chance at life the way you know it should be for them. Because when you are a foster carer, you and everyone surrounding you, work as a team to help the little ones who are placed in your care.

Being a foster carer certainly has a lot of drawbacks, ie, diary logs, ongoing training, meetings. But, if you aren´t afraid of facing problems, if you welcome the challenge of meeting a problem head-on and solving it, if you want to know that your life really counts for something, then, help a child. Help mould their world. Help create a responsible future citizen, because even when I'm walking away after handing over the baby/child I’ve loved as my own for the last X amount of months, I can hold my head up high and say "I'VE DONE MY JOB"... I allow myself to have an almighty cry for a whole 48 hours ( this apparently is healthy according to the councillor I had access to) then, dust myself off and get ready for the next little one that's going to need our super human powers to help them, because, unfortunately there's going to be at least one more.

Sincerely a tired, happy, content, foster carer xx

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