Love and Loss in Foster Care: What I Learned When We Said Goodbye

I Thought I Couldn’t Let Them Go and Then I Did

I am Tonya: a wife to Charlie and a mother to Bailey and Brittany, now both in their early twenties. When our family first talked about fostering, I went to a friend who was a foster parent and I told her I wasn’t sure that I could do it. I knew I would get attached and I didn’t think I could give the children up. She looked at me and said, “Tonya, it’s NOT ABOUT YOU.” WOW! That really changed my perspective and allowed me to proceed with an open heart. I felt like with that realization we were ready to start fostering. 

Fourteen children later, it’s still not about me. That doesn’t mean that saying goodbye is easy. Our second placement was a precious fifteen month old baby boy. He came to us with only a bottle of sour milk. He was malnourished, developmentally delayed and didn’t know how to welcome being held or rocked. It only took  him a few days to embrace us as he quickly knew he was safe and loved. We immediately got him the medical help and nutrition he needed. He was gaining weight and thriving. We had fallen in love with this little boy. 

Soon, I received a call from his case worker telling me that this baby boy was going to be leaving the next day to live with his dad. I hung the phone up and I couldn’t believe what I had just heard. Our family was devastated and heartbroken.  That night was one of the worst nights of my life as I knew it would be the last night we would have him. I rocked him as I did every night. I didn’t want to put him down and I held him most of the night- crying and praying. I begged God to intervene.  The next day Charlie and I took baby boy and went to meet his dad. I had written the father a letter and we gave him our contact information and a bible. I put that precious little boy up in dad’s truck and kissed him goodbye

As I turned and walked away, I thought I was going to die. I had to remind myself that this wasn’t about me. He was God’s child and I prayed to God to protect them. We were silent driving home- both numb. Our family was grieving; losing him felt like a death in our family. Slowly, God began reminding me that He was my strength. We talked as a family and we decided that we would continue to foster, but going forward we would try to connect with the biological family as soon as we could if at all possible.

 That’s what we did! When we meet the family now (when appropriate and approved by the case worker), we let them know we are taking care of their children while they work their treatment plan. All the walls that may have been up before typically come down right away. We are in this together.

Not long after that devastating goodbye to baby boy, two sisters came into our lives. The baby was born with a long list of drugs in her system. Immediately I thought, “how could a mother do this to her baby?” But, I was so convicted. Who am I to judge and condemn?  I certainly hadn’t walked in that mother’s shoes. 

I wrote that mother a letter. A letter of hope. I bought her a bible and put that letter inside. At the next court hearing we were waiting to go into the courtroom and the mother whom I hadn’t met yet walked over to me with tears streaming down her face. She hugged me and said, “ Thank you so much!” The case worker had given her my letter and my words of hope had touched her. Nobody had believed in her like that before. We were in this together!

Down the road, saying goodbye to these little girls wasn’t so hard because we had built relationships with their family and we were able to continue seeing them- even spending holidays together.

Fostering changed our family’s life. It opened our lives up to diversity; it taught us not to judge others; we built lasting relationships. Foster care has strengthened us as we laughed together, cried together, and we experienced so much joy.

If you think you can’t foster because you can’t let the children go, remember that it’s not really about you. It’s about the children God places in our lives to love and take care of for the time we have them. If you share different religious beliefs than I do, we need you too! We need everyone that is capable and willing to help. Is foster care hard? Yes. Is saying goodbye hard? Yes! Of course it is. But, is it worth it? Definitely! When you open up your heart and give unconditional love, you will be blessed.

Care2Foster believes that every family that can offer a loving home would make a great foster family regardless of religious affiliation or belief system. We desire to be a platform for diverse voices, perspectives, and experiences.

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This post was written by a guest author.

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