Another goodbye. Our little Math Boy who has lived with us since January is moving out tomorrow to live with kin. These are the days that most people would say are the main reason why they wouldn’t consider fostering.
Moving a child out who has lived with you even for a month is hard. I’m sure you can imagine how much stuff kids would have to pack up but it’s more than that.
Here are some things you may not have realized are affected during a move out:
- Laundry. For some of the little people who move on, we may never see again so it’s a trick to have all their clothes washed and socks matched before they leave. On the day before a child moves out, I wash every laundry basket in the house and fold and sort and match to make sure they have all their items. It’s not such a big deal for some as we try to build relationships with the families so we often end up continuing that relationship and we would be able to drop off any items left behind.
- Anxiety. For most kids in foster care, their things are all they have. As they are pulled from their safe place they often cling to their things. I take the whole day before to label everything with their name on it and make sure the child is happy that they have everything. Today we saw many tears over a missing water bottle. It wasn’t the bottle he was crying for it was everything about the water bottle. That water bottle matches the others that I bought for all the kids at the beginning of this crazy covid-19 time. For the first couple weeks of isolation, we hiked some amazing trails. We took our water bottles for each child. So the water bottle, (which thankfully I found tonight) is more than just a water bottle. Someone else looking in may not realize the great amount of anxiety that kids experience when leaving a foster home.
- School work. Organizing the schoolwork is so much more now than it may have been before. Sharing the information of codes to get in to all the online learning and due dates and deadlines and what needs to get back to the school in June is a lot of work.
- Friends. All week our little guy was crying for the loss of his friends. Many he may still see or be able to message with but it’s change and the friends is a hard one. It is usually one of the things that kids grieve the hardest when they arrive on our doorstep so it makes sense that they grieve all the new friends when they leave.
- Boxes. So usually I would go and pick up Rubbermaid bins and I usually would have bought a suitcase for the child. During these covid times, it’s hard to buy anything. Thankfully we have new boxes from our shop so I was able to pack all his things into 3 boxes neatly labelled and one Rubbermaid bin from my house that I emptied, and 3 backpacks which he got when he came into care. It’s quite the stack for a child who came with nothing a few months ago. You can imagine what they end up with when they stay for a year! We are firm believers that no child should have their possessions in a garbage bag. We have bought more suitcases in our lifetime than any normal family would. For one of our former teen fosters, we have bought her at least five. She manages to lose them, break them and is transient so she is often kicked out of places and has to leave them behind. She is always throwing stuff into garbage bags and we are always on the look out for discounts on luggage just for her!
- Behaviours. Our own kids definitely are affected by a child leaving. One of our littles gets angry and has wild rages. One of our littles cried for no apparent reason (which usually is recognized as being sadness for the loss). Our big kids usually start making lists of all the reasons why they will be glad that a child is moving on. These lists help them stay positive about the future. Tonight’s positive that was shared with me privately was, “I am glad that I won’t have to clean up the library books anymore”. A positive for one of our children, as the one leaving loved to take lots of books off the shelves and leave them all over the hallway reading corner. One of our littles is very little and doesn’t understand but knew something was up today and was just being crazy. Even the dogs get nutty when they see the bags. They know something is wrong and changing. It’s like before we go camping, they cling to me and stick close in hopes of coming along.
- Transport. It’s always a bit of planning to figure out how the child and all their possessions will be moved. One time we had a worker show up in a car for four kids with about 20 boxes of stuff! Since then we make sure the transportation arrangements are clear and that the worker has a good idea of how much to expect to move. The timing of the move, the day of the week, and handing over of paperwork are all things that need to be discussed ahead of time. Thankfully we had a week to prepare but sometime kids move with an hour notice. I hope that any judges or workers reading this get some idea of why moving a child in that time frame is not acceptable; not for the foster parent, not for the children in the home who have attached to the child and certainly not for the child moving. Even when kids are moving home to parents, they need a transition. A good plan.
- The self-care bucket. We always have a bucket for hygiene products for every child in our home. When a child leaves it’s easy to put everything in it so the child has their things. Sometimes the items are in various places so we have to find all the items and put them back in the bucket for the move. In it we put shampoo, conditioner, special lotions, diaper creme (if needed), a loofah, body wash, toothbrush, an extra toothbrush, dental floss, toothpaste, vitamins, pads (if needed), deodorant (if needed) and any other items the child needs like wipes, shavers, etc. For some kids, they may need to go from having me monitoring and managing their care to completely doing it on their own. We try to make sure they are as independent and understand their own care before they leave.
- Sports and outdoor equipment. We have to do a sweep of the outside to make sure the child has their soccer ball, scooter, bike, helmet, kite, special rocks, bug bucket and anything else they may have accumulated during their time with us.
- Under the bed. We have to deep clean the bedroom. Sweep under the bed, clean out the closet, clean out the dresser and make sure we find all the items that are theirs.
- Lifebook. Each situation is different with respect to lifebooks. In this case, I am taking the week to get the last photos printed and finish the last pages. I am taking down all the artwork from the past weeks of homeschooling and adding them to the lifebook. We have each person in the family write something or make a card or picture for the child and we add those in too. Once it’s done, I pass to the worker who colour copies it and keeps in the child’s file before handing it over to the child. We have never yet heard of one of our former fosters who has lost or destroyed their lifebook. We thought for sure one contentious family would but the kids still talk to us over 10 years later and they still have them. The importance of these books to a child’s self esteem cannot be overestimated. They are so important. Today our little spent an hour reading the whole lifebook a few times.
- Paperwork. We have an accordion file folder for each child that comes. We have to pass it on to the worker so we have to make sure it’s up to date and everything in it. Health card, insurance paper work, medical forms, documents, school reports and anything else we may have for the child goes in there and goes to the worker.
- Toys and games. It always amazes me when you gather all the child’s toys and books and games how much stuff they have. Did I buy all that? LOL One of my friends has half a room of stuffed animals for her little one from biological family so sometimes it’s not just foster parents purchasing it’s family as well.
- Outdoor gear. Hats, snow suits, shoes, rubber boots, skates, sunglasses, splash pants, it’s all gotta go but first you have to find it all! If the child has been there for longer than one season it’s even more fun to find.
The only reason I had time to actually write tonight is the fact that this little didn’t stay that long. I put 18,000 steps on my FitBit today. I put 24,000 on the day this little one came. So it’s a lot more work and running around the house when receiving a new child than it is in saying goodbye but the mental energy is more so I think it evens out.
I hope you enjoyed getting a glimpse into our world.