Most foster parents will tell you that saying goodbye to a foster child is one of the hardest parts of being a foster parent. And as hard as this process is for you, it’s also an emotional and confusing one for your foster child, but there are a few things you can do to help with the transition.
Build a relationship from the beginning
The best way to prepare for a child’s eventual reunification with their family is to build a good relationship with them from the beginning. This won’t eliminate the tension for your foster child, but it will help to alleviate it. It will also make it easier to share some of the practical, day-to-day parts of caring for your foster child, like their bedtime routine or their daily chores. And it just might set the stage for future communication with and involvement in your foster child’s life, even after they have been reunified with their family.
Watch your words
No matter what kind of relationship you have with your foster child’s family, be very careful about the language you use when you speak about them. Blaming or speaking negatively about a child’s family will only lead to defensiveness on the part of the child.
Communicate, communicate, communicate
No matter what, keep talking. Talk to your foster child’s parent about the child’s schedule and who is going to handle homework. Keep your foster child’s social worker in the loop about how things are going and any behavior issues you see with your foster child. Talk to your foster child about what they’re thinking and feeling. Some conversations might be awkward or uncomfortable, but push through to keep the lines of communication open.
Hold on through the hard stuff
Transitions are never easy. Many of the most successful ones are done slowly, over weeks or even months, depending on the needs of the child. This timeline, coupled with the big and confusing emotions for everyone, is exhausting. Give everyone involved, including yourself, a lot of grace, and remember, this is not going to last forever.
Kristy O’Neal is mom to two sweet, funny, wonderful kids and works full-time in information technology. During her spare time, she likes to browse Pinterest and thrift stores, create things, and hang out with her kids. As a foster parent, Kristy cares about advocating for the needs of kids in foster care and supporting foster families. You can read her thoughts on these and many other topics at her blog.