If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a million times: “I could never do what you do, because I couldn’t give them back.” That comment gets under my skin. Every time. It’s as if people are claiming that because they just couldn’t “give them up,” they are better than me. As if saying, because I can give them up, I am less of a mom or must have some kind of superpower they don’t possess.
Of course, neither of those is true. As we prepare to say goodbye to another precious one we have loved as our own, I think, “I can’t do this.” I don’t want to have a conversation with the other children in our home telling them that this little one will no longer be living with our family. I have to paint the picture for them that, although we are very sad to see her go, this is a good thing for her. I don’t want to wake up the morning after she leaves and find an empty space in her bed. I don’t want to hug and kiss her for what might be the last time. I don’t want to answer well-meaning questions as to where she is. I just don’t.
The goodbyes certainly are not my favorite part of foster care. Sometimes in the healthiest of situations, foster parents are allowed to continue to be a part of a child’s life after they’ve moved on, but sadly that isn’t always the case.
We do our best to work through this transition with many talks and preparations for the little ones, and many avenues to keep our foster child in our hearts. We have made Build–A-Bears, photo albums and books, making sure to have an extra for ourselves. We write letters telling of this dear child’s time as a part of our family and sharing our continued hopes and dreams for her future. We pack up her things in boxes and cute overnight bags (If you are a foster parent reading this, please, PLEASE never send your child on with their belongings in a trash bag.) and we throw a “sendoff party” with our closest friends and family.
Then we hang a new picture on a very special wall in our living room. It is by far my favorite wall in our home. I look at it and I see myself, my husband, my biological children, and many smiling faces I treasure dearly. Some are still with us some are not. I love this wall, these precious smiles, this gallery of my children both for a little while and forever!