Foster Families and Letting Go
By Diane Ponist
There are many stories about fostering. Some begin with the family receiving the placement of a child. Others, like most of mine, are about the ups and downs of each case. Here’s a story about the possibility of letting go.
“George,” who I have written about several times before, is on the verge of reunification. We have fought and fought for him to remain in placement, and currently he is still with us. But at the last court date, we learned that the only thing keeping him in our home was his fear of having to return. And as many foster parents know, it will not be long before the authorities convince him otherwise.
So for now, the only option we have is to prepare George, ourselves, and our family for this transition. What’s difficult is that we can’t help but go into self preparation mode. The wall goes up. We start to think along the lines of ok, we did our job here for the past year. He is now 5, we potty trained him, and taught him personal hygiene. We showed him how to speak up, and he understands the difference between good touch, bad touch, right, and wrong. Perhaps this one is not meant to go to adoption; not all foster children are.
But it’s so scary to have to prepare a child to return to a place that we cannot promise will be safe. We are supposed to talk to him and say it’s ok, but we don’t know if it’s going to be. Yes, his abuser is in jail and going through trial, but for how long? What if others were involved that we don’t know about? This is one of the hardest situations we’ve had to face.
After we convince George that it’s ok to leave, we talk to the other kids. We say that we offer a home to children who aren’t currently safe. That just because he or she is to be adopted soon, it doesn’t mean that all kids living with us will stay forever. We have to hope everyone in the house will keep an open mind during this time so things go smoothly.
Even after all this preparation and worry, the judge could always say he doesn’t agree with George leaving. He could say this child has been through enough and shouldn’t have to go back. No one knows what the judge is thinking, and this keeps our whole house on its toes. We have to prepare everyone for either scenario.
Every foster parent, at one time or another, has said “I’m afraid to let go. What happens if I have to let go? I don’t know if I can do that.” What most don’t consider is everyone else involved –the other children, family members, friends– they all can get emotionally attached.
So now that we have learned to put up our own walls, it’s time to help our loved ones, who develop their own connections, do the same.