The Chores And Emotions Of The Final Day Of A Foster Placement.

This is a guest post by our good friend Jamie Finn. She is an author, blogger, public speaker and the creator of the blog Foster The Family. You can connect with her, and read more, by visiting her Facebook page.

The foster care journey is an emotional roller coaster. This is especially true when you have to say goodbye to a child in your care. It’s part of the process but it’s hard. You’re attached. You’re in love with this child. But now you must let go. How? Here are some thoughts…

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Three months ago baby girl joined our family. I “live posted” the first day to give a window into what the day of a new placement is like for a foster family. Today, our sweet little girl was reunited with her parents. Many of you shared how helpful it was to have a window into the first day of placement, so I decided to invite you along for the last day as well. Now for all of the projects and chores and emotions of the final day of a placement…

9:00

The New Jersey state government was shut down for the weekend because of a budgetary disagreement. The courts were closed for a few days, so I thought there was a good chance baby girl’s court date would be pushed back.

10:00-10:30

I get a text from baby girl’s worker:

10:00 – Good morning. Mom and dad got custody of *baby girl*. Might be out today to get her. Let you know for sure in a few.

10:30 – Hello. Coming to pick up *baby girl*. I’ll be there at 12:30. Is that ok with you?

How about 1:30?

11:00

I like to send a photo book home, but I only had two hours to choose the pictures, have them printed, and pick them up. I went through every memory of the past three months. There’s nothing that takes an emotional day and makes it more emotional than looking at pictures! I teared up and smiled as I remembered how small and frail she was when she joined our family, the excitement of coming off of the monitor, the cuddles and laughs with the other kids, and all of the beautiful smiles.

I had already asked her previous foster mom for photos from their time with her. I printed 50 photos of baby girl, most just of her beautiful self, a few of her with our family members.

11:30

I ran around doing laundry and dishes, pulling out bins of clothes and cases of diapers. I want to do everything I can do help mom and dad be successful. I sent her home with more clothes than one child could ever wear, a case of diapers and wipes, a bunch of bottles and bibs, a few cans of formula, blankets and pacis and swaddles and everything else she could need for the next few months.

12:00

I wrote a letter to mom and dad. I told them how happy I am that they’ll be together with their daughter, as a family. I told them how much I’ve loved caring for their daughter, that she was so loved by our family. I told them that I wanted to do everything I could to help them all through the transition, so I wanted to share everything I had learned about her in my three months with her. I told them about her formula and her swaddles, her schedule and her routines. And then I followed it all with: “But you are her parents, you’ll figure out what’s best for her, and you’re more than welcome to ignore all of this completely.”

12:15

I got everything packed up. I’m sure you’ve heard of the stigma of the foster kid’s black trash bag. I always keep rubbermaid bins, inexpensive duffel bags, and large reusable shopping bags (T.J. Maxx for the win!) on hand to pack up my kids’ stuff. This, of course, was only a small portion of everything I sent home with baby girl.

12:30

The girls head up for naps, so we stop for a quick good-bye and final picture. I sometimes worry about the two (adopted) girls and their understanding of why other kids come and go, but they stay forever. I’ve done my best to prepare and explain, but they ask the same questions again. Big Sis lets me know she understands (as much as a three year old can) when she says: “We were her foster mom (*haha*), but now she’s living with her other mom……..You’re my mommy forever.”

12:45

I have a new favorite “good-bye” tradition. The book “Love You From Right Here” is just a treasure. This book’s beautiful and simple words explain the journey and depth of a foster mom’s love, from the first moments of placement to the struggles and growths to the happy memories to the final good-bye. Every time I read it, I weep over the final words: “I’ll still love you from right here.” The final pages of the book have room for photos and memories and messages. I plan on re-stocking my supply of this book, as I fully intend on sending this along with every child who leaves my home.

1:00

I change baby girl into her “homecoming” outfit. I’m so proud of dad, his love for her and his determination to fight for her. I went shopping last week on a mission for a special outfit to send her home in. A “Fresh and Rad Like Dad” onesie seemed appropriate.

1:15

The worker shows up 15 minutes early, and I have a pit in my stomach. My husband left work to get Little Mama from camp, pick up the pictures, and rush home for a goodbye. I’m so afraid my girl is going to miss her and will be so devastated that she didn’t get to say good-bye. Thankfully, they walk in a minute later and share tearful good-byes.

1:30

I share my own good-bye with baby girl.

Finding out she’s leaving is emotional and sad. Preparing for her to leave is hectic and stressful. But actually stopping for my good-bye allows me to remember the full picture of what’s happening. Yes, I am losing this little girl that I love. It is sad for me and my family.

But, ultimately, today is a happy day. Today a family is reunited. Today a mother and father begin the journey of parenting their daughter. Today a brother and sister meet their baby sister for the first time. Today a little girl–a little girl who I love so dearly–joins her family. Today is a happy day.

Question: Have you had to say goodbye to a foster placement recently? Share your story with us in the comment section below. You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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  • Amy W

    Our last goodbye was so bittersweet. He went to be with his bio brother to eventually be adopted into their home. His third mom in as many months. Each of us loving him in our own way. Each of us struggling with emotions of what we wanted versus what was best for him. The picture of that beautifully sad transition will be treasured in our home forever.

  • Cely MacDonald

    We said goodbye to our first placement ever about a month ago. She was 5 months old when she left and we had her for 3 months.
    The court case was not supposed to determine whether she was reunited, but to present a reunification plan and schedule the next court date. The judge had other plans…
    My husband called me to let me know that rights were restored and that I had three hours to pack up all of her belongings so we could drop her off.
    I packed more than enough and wrote a letter like you did. The monotony of packing everything was so much to handle in the middle of the flood of emotions but it really helped keep me focused.
    It was begind unexpected and I was so emotional that I could barely eat. It was literally the hardest thing I have ever had to do…but for her, I would live it all over again. I never knew that my heart could grow to much in an instant.

  • Tiffanie Bodine

    7 months ago we said goodbye to our 9yr old twin foster daughters whom we had in our home for 13 months. After months of paperwork and skype parental visits, they went to live with Dad in another country over 2500 miles away. We will likely never see them again. We had one last visit to see Grandma & do things as a family, we spent days shopping & packing everything they might need in such a hot humid climate. I wrote a long letter to dad and had it translated into his language, put all their hundreds of pictures on a CDRW. Finally we stayed in a hotel & had a nice family dinner, and said our goodbyes. We were all ready, and there were a few tears at the airport, but we felt happy for them. On the other hand, we have had times where CA gave us very short notice and we had to scramble to hunt down everything that belonged to a child, pack it up, and say our goodbyes all in just an hour. That was really hard. I appreciate your blog post. This is one of the struggles with parenting fosters. It sure is a roller coaster to say the least!!

    • Wow! Another country! So glad you felt happiness in the midst of sadness. This makes it worth it!