Today was such a great day. We went to the local indoor playground to celebrate the birthday of a former foster love. He lived with us for six months. We did our best to help and support his mother and we continue to offer that support months and years after he has gone back home.
While we were there, another foster family was meeting an adoptive family who had adopted their former foster love. So amazing to watch the baby recognize his former foster family and play with his foster siblings alongside his new parents.
This is the foster care system working. Building relationships, not tearing them apart. Adding more people who love a child into the child’s life. Ensuring that a child doesn’t feel abandoned but supported with as many loving people as possible.
We are so thankful to have relationships with many of our former foster loves. Sometimes it can be a daunting task when a few of the families are requesting visits at the same time and we already have a houseful.
Supporting foster children after they move on, whether it be to a new foster home, adoptive home or with biological family, is always important to the stability of a child. It says to the child, “You are important.” They are important even after they leave our care.
Convincing the birth parents can be the hard part. Often, understandably so, they have a huge mistrust of the system that separated them from their child. Foster parents are a part of that system so naturally birth parents may feel insecure having the foster parents stick around. We try to let all parents know that once the child returns home we have no obligation to help. We will most likely have a new placement to worry about. When we offer continued support it is for the child’s sake. We know after years of research in adoption and fostering that the more people who can support and love a child the better. We know that a child can feel abandoned and thrown away when someone disappears from his/her life. Helping birth parents to understand that is key. We want to do what’s best for their child. We love their child too. We want to help the birth family whenever we can to help them succeed so the child doesn’t have to return to the system.
That relationship will look different for everyone.
We have helped former foster loves with school issues, with financial issues such as buying them items needed for school, food when in need, childcare, and drives to important appointments. We have celebrated birthdays, graduations and other achievements for children who haven’t lived with us in years. These are things that we do not have to do. We are not paid to do. We do because we fell in love. When you love a child you want to help them, even if they no longer live with you. I believe that the kids are the ones who win when a former foster family takes the time to love on them even after they have moved on.
This is hard work that has a huge impact.
To all the birth families and adoptive families, I hope that if a former foster parent tries to stay connected with your child, you seize the opportunity. I hope that you allow the extra love for your child and you ask for support if needed. Foster families often know your child just as well as you do so they are the perfect people to help when your child needs it. We all know that kids often listen to others better than they do their parents. Make use of that rule and ask the foster family to help you get important messages across to your child.
To all the foster families who have lost or are losing a foster love, I hope that you can understand just how awkward it can feel for a birth parent or adoptive parent to ask you for ideas or support with their child. I hope that you can be compassionate and sensitive to the parents and help them however they need it. Encourage them, offer support, extend grace, and remind them that you love their child too.