Sunday, December 13, 2015

Maintaining relationships with former foster kids

We went into fostering knowing that we would have goodbyes.  We hoped they would not be forever goodbyes, but we couldn't really know for sure.  I think we knew it wasn't within our control, but some stories made me hopeful.  Before our first placement, I think I pictured that we would have some kids who would reunify, then depending on the relationship with the birth parents, we could possibly stay in their lives.  What I didn't picture is a move to a relative or another foster family, which has been every case we have had.  It's similar that the relationship is not ours to control, but also different.

So, who have we seen?  I saw Pterodactyl once and received pictures of her as a toddler.  We haven't seen Beetle again, though his foster family did send pictures once.  We have seen Caterpillar, but not in a planned sort of way.  I've posted some about how I've gotten to see Cricket for play dates after she moved from our home.  And though he was just here for respite, we've seen Tadpole, and I recently went to his adoption celebration.  Looking at this list, we have had contact after kids moved, and I am grateful, sometimes for our sake and sometimes for theirs.  However, it has not been simple and easy.

Sometimes new homes make promises that they don't keep.  This has been especially hard on me.  I really thought we were going to be a regular part of some of the kids' lives based on what new caregivers were telling me.  I have had to work on forgiveness.  I have had to put myself in their shoes, knowing they have a lot of their plate and are just busy.  I'm not a fan of the phone, so I sometimes let slip those phone calls I know I should make.  I'm not perfect either.  Or maybe there's just something I don't understand that's a factor.  I need to let those promises go, forgive and forget them.

Sometimes new homes do not even try for contact.  I don't know if it's because they're busy.  I don't know if it's because they have judged us in some way.  I have to forgive and let this go.

Sometimes new homes do try, and it's still a bit messy.  Every boundary has to be drawn differently for a former and new family of a child.  I read stories in blogs of families taking kids for weekends, picking them up to give the new family a break, all celebrating together.  This also set up high expectations in my mind, but in reality, the new family may decide that's not good for the child.  Or even the therapist may get involved and suggest boundaries.  I hoped we could have Cricket back at our house at some point, or take her for outings, but Gina and Cricket's therapists have been very cautious, as she is having a hard time understanding permanency and trust in Gina as a permanent caregiver.  Thankfully, they also recognize that a continued relationship with us is still a good thing, but it has been different than I imagined. 

It's hard to accept after all I've poured into a child that my eagerness to love and care for her could have a negative impact.  I want to get defensive.  I want to feel hurt.  But I am grateful that we are still connected, that I get the chance to tell Cricket how special she is, how happy I am to see her.  That Rhinoceros and Cricket can play together, with Cricket cheerfully barking orders at him, and Rhinoceros just thrilled to have his buddy.

I wonder if some of this is preparation.  Maybe we will be the new home drawing boundaries someday, and I can tell the foster parents this: "I know how you feel.  I know how wrong it feels to see someone else taking care of the child you have loved and poured into.  I know how wrong it feels not to be the one who gets to say what the child needs, when you've met her needs minute by minute.  We all love this child, and we should be gracious to each other, but mostly we need to just keep loving this child, even if loving this child looks different than it did before.  And thank you for loving him."

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