When you take a foster child into your home, it is natural to become attached. After all, you have invested your heart into this child in order to create a warm, loving, nurturing environment where he or she can feel safe while in your care. It is important to remember, though, that foster care, by its very nature, is temporary. However difficult it may be to say goodbye when ending a long term foster placement, that goodbye is something you knew was coming from the start of your time together. It is your responsibility as a foster parent to help make this transition as easy as possible, so we would like to offer some tips for ending foster placement on a positive note.
What happens when Foster Placement ends?
It could be that reunification occurs, and the child is returned to the family of origin. Sometimes, children leave a foster placement because they are being adopted by another family, or they are joining their siblings in a different foster family. If your foster child needs care that is beyond your abilities, he or she might need a specialist placement. Of course, some children age out of foster care and become old enough to live independently. Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of everyone involved, foster care placements sometimes break down. Although we do provide full training and support, sometimes the foster parent is having trouble coping with certain behaviours and cannot manage them, or new problems have made the foster situation unsafe, a child may be removed from a foster placement. This is hard on the child and the family, so it is never a decision that is made lightly.
How do I deal with it?
When a foster placement ends, there are some steps you can take to make it a little bit easier and help everyone transition to whatever comes next.
First, prepare yourself
From the very beginning of your placement, keep it in your mind that it is only temporary. Your goal as a carer is to provide the child with a temporary safe space, so that, ideally, the family can be reunited once things get sorted. You have an important role to play, because you have the opportunity to make a positive impact on the child’s life. However, keeping a healthy mindset while you are fostering, and remembering that this child is only yours for a little while, will make it easier to let go when that time comes. It is natural to feel sad when the foster relationship ends but try to remain positive and remember that you have helped a vulnerable child and made a difference in his or her life. Stay connected with your foster agency, because the agency will be a good source of support for you. Additionally, if you really love fostering, the agency can place another child with you.
If you have biological children at home, prepare them
Just as you may be sad that the foster placement is ending, your children may have strong feelings about losing a foster sibling, especially if they have formed a close relationship. Talk to your children about why the child is leaving, and make sure they have support after the foster child leaves. In some cases, it is appropriate to keep in touch with your foster child, even after he or she has left your home. Talk to your foster agency about letting your foster child know how to contact you or your children.
Perhaps most importantly, prepare the foster child
Be open and honest, explaining the situation clearly, and letting the child know why this is happening and what to expect. Transitions can be traumatic for foster children, so make sure to be empathetic and let your child know you understand how difficult this is and that you are there for support. Encourage your foster child to express feelings and thoughts, even if they are negative. It is normal for a child in this situation to feel sad, angry, or confused. Let the child know that you are there, and that you can be contacted if you are needed, even if the child is no longer in your care. Your goal should continue to be to support and care for your foster child, even after the placement ends. It may be helpful to give your foster child a keepsake or memento from your time together, like a scrapbook full of pictures from fun things you have done together, or a special, small gift that will remind the child of your family.
Make the most of your remaining time together
Plan a special outing for the family towards the end of your placement. Spending some quality time together, doing something simple like going to the zoo or the beach, will leave everyone involved with a great memory to make the parting a little bit easier.
Are you interested in becoming a Foster Carer?
At Acorn Fostering Services, we provide good quality foster placements for children and young people, and we are always looking for foster carers who can offer children sensitivity and care. An Ofsted approved and registered independent fostering agency, we are based in Leicester and provide fostering agency services throughout the East and West Midlands and Northern Counties. If you think you have the life experience and qualities that would help you care for children of all types and you want to learn more about foster caring, call us on 0116 251 3550, or contact us through our website.