Monday, 20 May 2013

First goodbye

Four years of fostering and I still remember my very first foster child, a lovely little boy named Ben*. Ben was 4 months old when he came to my home, and I remember him being a very bright and happy child, he was very responsive for his age.  As my first fostering experience it has been the most memorable and special.

Ben was with me for about 1 ½ years until he was adopted. When you have been caring for a child for that length of time the love and bond becomes great, Ben and I became very attached to one another and he was an important part of our family.

However, as a foster carer it is inevitable that the time will come when the child has to move on to their new home. Even though you are aware that this will eventually happen it was a new and difficult experience for me and it was a very sad and emotional time for my family.  As my first foster child saying goodbye to Ben was heart breaking.

I had to tell myself that Ben was going to a good family. Part of the process was to set our emotions aside and think about what was in his best interest and prepare him to bond and draw attachments to his new adoptive parents.

There is a procedure involved when moving a child between fostering and adoption to ensure that it is as easy on the child as possible. Ben’s transition period took 9 days, and was very intensive. During the transition period I tried to give the adoptive parents full priority to establish bonding and attachment.

The adoptive parents came to my home each day between 8am and 9pm. I was lucky to have a really good relationship with them and they stayed for dinner each night. Initially I carried out the daily routine showing them his needs and requirements. This was quickly handed over to the parents and I remained only in the background for support. This allowed Ben to quickly bond and allowed the parents to take control with confidence.

At the end of each day session, we would have a discussion on how the day went, any concerns they had and how best to improve and implement the next day. I wanted to do anything that would help my foster child to have a smooth transition. I supported the adoptive parents with a photo “life story” album showing the stages of his development, events, day trips and our time spent with him. I also made a list of his routine to help assist them when they left.

I cried for days after saying goodbye and had to visit my mother for reassurance and support. It was quite a stressful time for me and I actually lost weight during the transition period.

I still cry each time I say goodbye to a child, but am now more mentally prepared for it. Having a good rapport with the adoptive parents helps me to feel comfortable with them leaving, and I remind myself each time that they are going to a loving home.

My support worker, knowing how upset we all were during Ben’s transition, recommended that we turn Bens leaving day into a ‘positive memorable day’. She advised for us as a family to go out for the day, as soon as he left. I didn’t think it would work but I took her advice and we all went off to London for a boat ride on the Thames from Westminster to Greenwich. It worked out to be a great day and till this day we always remember that his leaving was a memorable and a happy day.

This weekend I was very happy to receive a call from Ben’s adoptive parents. It’s been nearly 3 years since he moved on to his new home and since then, we have been fortunate enough to keep in touch and meet up regularly. It’s sometimes not always possible to have contact with the adoptive parents depending on their circumstances. With Ben it’s been great to be able to hear about how well he is doing and learn about his achievements. Ben refers to me as ‘Aunty’ and I still have a special relationship with him.

Its very satisfying to know that you have been part of his story.

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