This is the hardest part….you’ve taken this child in, fed them, cared for them, earned their trust and even fallen in love with them, now you have to say goodbye. This might be because they are ready to return to their biological parents, ready to move out of home or even just need to be moved to another foster home (often decided by the courts). This can often happen quite quickly but even if they took their time it would still be difficult. There are a few things you can do though to ease this transition.
In some cases, loving foster parents feel they have to give up on their wards and send the foster child back. The child may then be given a new placement in another foster home or a group home, perpetuating the cycle of a child who is not offered the chance to form long-lasting relationships so important to proper emotional development. — Susanne Babbel MFT, PhD
1) Get in early
The earlier you are able to begin preparing yourself and your child for the move, the easier it will be on the both of you (as well as the family the child is going to).
2) Ask for guidance
Ask the social worker and others involved in the care of the foster child how you can best assist with the move and prepare your child.
3) Let the child know
Explain gently to the child that they will be moving soon. Be aware that they may react poorly to this information, they might act out or they might become overly clingy towards you. It is important to remember that this is not personal, they are simply just hurting right now. Try and assure the child that it is nothing that they have done that has caused the move and emphasize some of the positive things that could come out of the move. Also, encourage them to ask any questions that they might have; it is important that they feel part of the process and giving them a chance to air their thoughts and get all the information helps with this.
Court-appointed social workers would be working with the biological mother and/or father and child to see if there was any chance that the family could be reunited while the child was living with a foster family who might want to adopt him. — Meredith Resnick L.C.S.W.
4) Introduce the child to the new (or old) home gradually
Depending on how much time you have before the move, this can start as simple as driving past the home, showing them some of the shops and schools nearby and it can move up to meeting the new family and even having a weekend visit with them. This will help the child to begin to get used to the family and their surroundings.
5) Don’t make them pick a side
Let them know how much you will miss them when they are gone. It is important that they know that you have bonded with them also. However, make sure that they also know that it is okay to love their new family. Sometimes they may feel a loyalty to you and your family (especially if you have come to love and trust each other) so this loyalty may make it difficult for them to bond with their new family. If they know that you want them to bond with them though, it can help this process.
We know that children do well when they are raised by parents who are intentional in their parenting, who are proactive, provide prosocial role models for their children, and who are nurturing, loving, responsive, and sensitive. — Jill Duerr Berrick, PhD
6) Fill the new family in
You remember the teething period with your child when they first came into your care? The tantrums, tears and a frightened child acting out? Wouldn’t have been nice if you had some tips and tricks to start with? Well now you do….after the time you have spent with your child, you would have come to know what their fears are, their favorite foods, the things that make them happy and what calms them down. Sharing this information with the new family will help them have a base to start with. This will help them to manage any challenging behavior (and be more empathetic about it), bond with them and to manage their overall needs.
7) Finally, say goodbye
Make sure your foster child has something to remember you and your family by and show them that you will keep something to remind you of them (perhaps a picture). Often foster children have difficulty forming attachments to people and it is important they know just how much they do mean to you (and that it is not by any fault of theirs that they have to move). Otherwise, they will begin to question this attachment and this will make it even harder for them to bond with others in the future.
For more information on saying goodbye to your foster child, please see the links below.