Foster parents open their homes and hearts to children in care, knowing that the ultimate goal is reunification. But, even though they know to prepare for the day children in their care will leave, it doesn’t make it easier or less painful when the day to say goodbye arrives.
Preparing for the transition can be challenging for foster families and children in care. There are many questions to navigate. Sorting through your feelings and helping others comb through theirs can be overwhelming.
Dealing with reunification plans can be especially daunting if the child moves to an environment you question. Even though the courts have the final say, you may still feel uncomfortable, but that’s okay. Just because the court’s made a decision doesn’t mean the reunification process will be smooth.
Even if it’s a joyful occasion to see the child reunited with their birth family, it’s still bittersweet to part with a child you ensured was in a safe, nurturing, and caring environment. However, remember that your efforts will continue positively impacting the child’s life.
7 Tips To Cope With Saying Goodbye
Fortunately, there are things you can do to lessen the upheaval all members of the family may experience. Having to say goodbye can cause anxiety, fear, and even anger. Some family members, including the child in your care, may act out, while others might keep their feelings inside. As a foster parent, how you manage the situation can negatively or positively affect everyone involved.
- Let Everyone Express Their Feelings
No parent wants to see a family member suffer. We sometimes attempt to buffer and fix things to ensure they don’t feel pain. It’s only natural to grieve when saying goodbye. But instead of skipping past the emotions, engage with family members when they share their feelings.
Consider putting together a scrapbook for any family members who want one to look back on the memories you’ve shared. It could include photos of things the family did together while the child was in your care, other friends and family members they’ve met and even photos of their room.
- Celebrate With the Child in Your Care
Plan a special celebration event — a picnic, pizza, or cookie party — any ritual to mark the milestone. It’s a wonderful way to ensure children and young people know you’ll remember them.
- Be Prepared
Sometimes, decisions can be made quickly by the courts. Therefore, stay on top of important court dates. Being prepared will enable you to take photos and gather memorabilia to store so you can access it quickly. It will also give you a chance to think about how to say goodbye when it’s time.
- Take Time To Grieve
Grieving at the end of a placement is normal, even if you’re excited about the child’s future. Allow yourself time to grieve and indulge in self-care. That could mean reconnecting with friends, taking a break from new placements, or doing something special for yourself.
- Remain Positive
Change can be challenging for anyone. However, you can make saying goodbye easier for you and the children in your care by speaking positively about your shared experiences and the future.
- Get Support
You don’t have to deal with the end of a placement alone. Talk with the counselors and social workers and ask for referrals to speak with a therapist. Your friends and family can also be a great support.
- Remember Why You Became a Foster Parent
Focus on your positive role for a child in need and their family. You gave a child a safe place to stay and grow while their parents learned, developed, and enhanced their skills. You’ve helped a child and their family grow and played an essential role in their lives.
Consider Becoming an SOS Foster Parent
As a foster parent, you can provide a safe, loving atmosphere that has the power to change a child’s life.
One thing that sets SOS Children’s Villages Illinois apart from traditional foster care is full-time, professional Foster Parents. The SOS Illinois model places Foster Parents in single-family homes in one of its Villages, where up to six children, ranging in age from infants to young adults, call home.
Change a Child’s Life Today!
If you decide that foster care is not for you, there are many other ways to support foster children and other foster parents. Donations change lives! You can also help by participating in an SOS Illinois fundraising event or contributing to our Amazon wish list. The generosity of donors has enabled us to provide safe, stable, loving homes for thirty years.