Few of our transitions for a foster child leaving our home have gone as we hoped. Thankfully, we have never had the case of a completely unexpected move of a child, like a relative being identified and the child moves that same day, or a goal change in court and a child suddenly going home with a parent. But we have had planned transitions that speed up and slow down sporadically.
Pterodactyl was getting prepped for a move, then it stalled, then it wasn't going to happen, then the next day it was and she moved. Beetle changed plans where he was moving, then moved instantly, but he had only been with us such a short time. I would still go back and change that and have visits first. Cricket knew her new home well because of sibling visits and some overnights and weekends there. But we had the longer-than-expected wait for licensing, then a move before we went on a trip assuming it would be complete, then a move back to us, then a final move. Thankfully she was still excited to live with her sister, but that transition was very hard on all of us. Only Caterpillar's was really decent. Gradual visits then transition, and we even had a little goodbye party, though it was pretty small as he hadn't been with us long enough for a lot of people to really know of him as a part of our family.
Praise God, this was a good transition. There was some stressful stuff for us at a couple points (a sudden attempt to change the date of the move earlier than we could handle, being asked for input then having our input ignored) but in the end and thanks to a little pushback from B, we did get the transition we hoped for. Here's what it looked like, though keep in mind it wasn't until week 4 that we were 100% sure his adoptive family was committed to adopting him. Let's call the adoptive family "The Youngs."
Week 1: The Youngs come over to our house with all of their kids (minus one of the adult kids) and their family and ours go sledding. Crocodile meets them.
Week 2: Crocodile's sisters come here for a sibling visit, the Youngs drop them off.
Week 3: Crocodile goes over to the Youngs' for an afternoon.
Week 4: Crocodile goes over to the Youngs' for a full day.
Week 5: Crocodile goes over to the Youngs' for a weekend.
Week 6: Crocodile goes over to the Youngs for Friday - Tuesday.
Week 7: Crocodile moves in with the Youngs.
When the Youngs brought Crocodile back to us Tues. of "Week 6," the four adults told him about the move. We told Dinosaur and Rhinoceros a couple days earlier, so they would have time to process without Crocodile around.
On the day before the move, we had such a positive day for our family and for him. We had pancakes and went to a museum in the morning. Then we had a "Crocodile's moving" party with our local support people: old friends and their kids, newer church friends and a few more kids, our babysitter and her family. It was a uncharacteristically warm day, more like May than February, and the whole crowd played outside in our yard. Kids and older people took turns pitching balls to Crocodile for him to hit. People laughed and pushed kids on swings. We felt the love of our community, Crocodile felt the love, and people who wanted some closure could have it. It was beautiful and I wish everyone could have it each foster placement.
We had a little down time as we loaded up the van with the rest of his belongings (some had gone to his new home on Tuesday), then we took off with our whole family. We played outside some more, saw his new room, ate dinner, and said our goodbyes with promises from his new family that they wanted us in his life.
It was a day that could not have gone much better.
And yet I still sit here the following day, with a heaviness in my chest that's increased throughout the day. The grief that I've felt waiting and lurking since the day I met him, since I heard his name that I love, since I saw his dark scared eyes the first night, and his huge grin the next day. The grief that waited beneath as he called me Mommy and first said he loved me, as he ran to my arms for comfort or with joy. The grief that waited beneath as I signed the paper that said that we were not going to seek adopting him. It takes its full place in my heart. It isn't overwhelming me right now, as I also have some feelings of peace and relief. But it is clearly there now.
One day at a time, I will walk through it, and I'll walk with my children. It's what we do, and I have no regrets about it.