By Dr. John DeGarmo
Perhaps one of the most difficult aspects of being a foster parent is the moment when your foster child leaves your home. When any foster child leaves your home, no matter the level of attachment, there will be emotions when it is time to say goodbye, for both you and the child. There are indeed several reasons why a foster child might be removed from your home. Whether the reason is reunification, adoption or the placement into another home, the transition will be a much easier one with a few simple steps by the foster parent.
How your foster child is told that he is leaving can be a difficult conversation. You and the caseworker need to decide how best to inform the child. Whoever should be the one to tell your foster child needs to do so in a way that is marked with care, sincerity, kindness, and honesty. If he is excited about returning to his home and his parents, celebrate this with him. Perhaps have a going away party, and celebrate his time with you. If he is concerned and full of anxiety about moving to another foster home, an adoptive one or even about moving back to his own home, speak to him in positive terms, keeping a positive attitude with him. Remind him that he is an important person and that you care for him and want the best for him.
Try to find out as much information about the situation as you can. If possible, acquire the phone number of the family he is moving to from your caseworker and call them ahead of time, introducing yourself to them. Allow your foster child to speak with them, getting to know them a little before the move. If permissible, arrange for a visit with the family, along with the caseworker, allowing all sides the opportunity to meet face to face.
Make sure you pack everything he owns, including everything he came with to your home. Include as many group photographs of him with your family as possible. Place some self-addressed, stamped envelopes in his suitcase so that he can write to you from his new home. Add some stationary, pencils and pens, so that he has everything he needs to write to you. Also, include contact information for him, such as your address, phone numbers and email address.
To help him in this time of transition, it is important to reach out and contact him. Call him on the phone and allow him to tell you all about his new home and new family. Write letters to him and send pictures of your family and family events to him from time to time. Remember birthdays and other important events in his life, including holidays and school events and send cards. If you live nearby, let him know when you can attend school functions and extra-curricular activities or programs of his.
Saying goodbye is never easy for anyone, and may be especially difficult for you and your foster child. With the right preparation, this time of transition can be a little bit easier for all involved.
Dr. John DeGarmo has been a foster parent for 11 years, and he and his wife have had more than 30 children come through their home. He is a speaker and trainer on many topics about the foster care system, and travels around the nation delivering passionate, dynamic, energetic and informative presentations. Dr. DeGarmo is the author of the highly inspirational and bestselling book "Fostering Love: One Foster Parent’s Story," and the upcoming book "The Foster Parenting Manual: A Practical Guide to Creating a Loving, Safe and Stable Home." He also writes for a number of publications and newsletters, both in the United States, and overseas. Dr. DeGarmo can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, through his Facebook page or at his website.