My husband and I are in the EXTREMELY EARLY phases of foster parenting — essentially, we’re having numerous conversations about whether or not fostering a child is something we could emotionally, physically, and financially handle in the coming year or two. We’re talking about whether or not we’d want to foster an infant or teen (our state desperately needs foster families for those two groups), if we want to disrupt birth order (Jasper is almost four), and, most importantly: how we’ll cope if/when our foster child goes back to her birth family or is adopted by another non-biological family.
Obviously both outcomes are awesome for the child, but I’m not sure how WE would deal. We’re both gravitating to fostering over adoption for a whole bunch of reasons that basically boil down to it’s what we think would work best for us, save for not knowing how we’d deal with this one issue. How do you emotionally cope when your foster child moves on to a permanent family?
Comments on Foster parents: how do you deal when your foster child is adopted by another family?
I would love to read the feed-back as well. My fiance and I have been discussing becoming foster parents after we marry (this April) and that is one of the MANY questions I have on my mind about being a foster parent.
I became a foster parent more than six years ago when I was single. I decided that I really wanted to parent and was not in a relationship. Over the course of the next three years, I had two foster children. My girl came to me first at the age of 13 months and she stayed until she was 20 months old and returned to her mother. A month before she left, I got my boy, a three month old. The girl came back to me six months later. I had both of them until the boy went back to his mother at the age of two. The girl returned to her mother (again) a month before she turned four.
Currently, I do not have foster children. I met my husband just after my boy left and we got married a little over two years ago. We have an eight month old daughter. We are considering foster parenting (together this time) in the future.
To answer your question directly, it is really, really hard to watch foster kids return home. (In my experience, the foster family is always considered first for adoption so if the child becomes adoptable, you would get to adopt, unless you are not interested. Since both my kids returned to their biological parents, I do not know about the adoption aspect.) It is the hardest thing I have ever had to do, including giving birth to my daughter. There is not a single day I don’t think about my kids.
On the other hand, it was extremely rewarding and I loved most of it. I had a big part in raising these kids during a very formative time in their lives. They might not remember me but I will always be a part of them. Some biological parents allow foster parents to continue to have relationships with the kids after they return home. Neither of the mothers of my kids allowed that. I have not seen them since they left my home. I can only assume they are OK because they have not returned to the system.
I guess I coped by doing what people do when they experience a loss – I moved on slowly and surely. I still talk about them and think about them. I share memories with friends and family and I still have pictures up. When my daughter is old enough, I will explain who they are. They are a part of me and, therefore, they are a part of her. They influence the way I parent her every day.
I hope that helps some – there is not enough room to discuss it all in a comment.
This is SUPER helpful. My primary reason for asking is that I worry about how a child leaving will impact me emotionally — it sounds selfish, and it might be, but I feel like I need to protect myself from being seriously devastated. My hope with asking this question is to get a lot of feedback to process and to bring in my head with me to our orientation in a few months — I just want to have as many opinions as possible so I can ask the people at the orientation the right questions.
Thank you so much for sharing your story! It’s very, very helpful.
I totally hear you Stephanie and this is one of my big concerns as well with fostering with intent to adopt. I’m frankly not sure if I could bear to give back a child I had bonded with. It’s these issues that are really making me look at why I want to adopt and whether my intentions are more selfish (like, am I looking for gratitude? Will I ever consider the birth family to be the best choice if the child was removed once?) or if I will be able to be strong enough to do what’s right for the child, even if I don’t agree with it. Thank you for this post…it hits on many things I am going through as well!
Something I learned in therapy is that there is a difference between selfish and self first. One means you put your wants and need above everybody else all the time. The other means you treasure your emotional resources and consider how you invest them. You are being family first instead of family-ish by asking this question.
I know every state is different, but in Illinois we are required to take 27 hours of classes for foster parenting licensing. This topic is heavily addressed, and there are countless resources and guides available on the DCFS/ CPS websites. There is a lot of support in the fostering community, I would suggest getting involved with other foster families, and the more seasoned pros probably have a lot of wisdom to share.
Yep, we have to take a TON of classes. We’re going to an orientation in a few months, and I was going to ask them about connecting with foster families in our area. Thanks!
i’m really hoping to read the responses here, but i’ll also chime in, despite not having been in this situation yet.
we are in the midst of our first foster placement. obviously that means we don’t have any actual experience with your question, but we have done a lot of thinking about the concept, and have a better grasp on how we think about foster parenting than we did going in.
the first thing to say is (in response to the most common question we get, “isn’t it going to be *hard* to let them go home?”): yes, it is going to be hard. but lots of things that are good and worthwhile are hard; hard is not the same as bad.
the other thing we have discussed a lot is that it seems there are two viewpoints on foster care: the dominant one (it seems to us) being that we are here to *protect* kids from whatever the problem is, the other being that we are here to shelter kids *during* whatever the problem is.
i think the protection frame makes reunification with the kids’ family into a “failed adoption”, and supports a very hierarchical view of families (as in the family they are going back to may be “okay” now (vs. presumably “not okay” to end them in care), but xyz/adoptive family would be “better”). with this view, i think it would be impossibly heartbreaking to deal with a kid moving on.
the shelter framework, to me, acknowledges that things are fluid and emphasizes compassion towards everyone involved, not just the children. and, in our case, we can see the problems that landed the kids with us being repaired. and when they go home, they will go to a home that i am certain will not make the same parenting decisions we do, but will be a good home (and, importantly, their home). clearly, it’s not this black-and-white, either. and i would note that we/our kids have been extremely lucky – i feel pretty certain that going home is the best choice for the kids; it could be a lot harder if i felt differently – and i guess my point is that some of that feeling is a decision you can make, and some of it is going to be a lot more situational.
it seems a little ridiculous to write so much “advice” about something we have never even done, but we have given it a lot of thought, so i am hoping it could be helpful to share. perhaps i’ll come back in 3 or 7 months with something more specific. i also recognize that it would be totally different to have a kid leave to an adoptive family (to me that would be much harder), not to mention that every single time is, i am sure, different.
I am loving this comment so hard!
I haven’t heard the protection vs. shelter metaphor before, but as a former therapist of foster youth, I am LOVING it! I think this view is SO empowering, because it isn’t always black/white…and sometimes, even when it is physically (as in cases of abuse), the emotions for children are so fluid…they love/hate their biological parents from minute to minute, and to see the complexities in it all is a beautiful thing!
Beautifully put. Compassion for the bio family is essential, and accepting that in the absence of abuse and neglect, families need only be good enough, not perfect. Most of us did not have perfect parents, and we survived normal dysfunction. It’s ok.
I understand what you’re saying about compassion, but children don’t end up in the foster system due to “normal dysfunction.”
I strongly disagree with this statement.
There are countless numbers of families that needlessly end up in the care system.
This could be due to a lack of resources to keep the family together, poor social work, a lack of understanding of family dynamics ect. I am not saying that some children need to be temporarily removed from their families and in extreme cases removed permanently but I do think that we need to be open to the idea that not all children that are placed in foster care are being ‘saved’ or ‘protected’.
Personally i feel that if you would struggle to let a child return home because of you own attachment to the child then you shouldn’t foster.
We all know that children should always remain within their birth families where possible and if the judgement has been made that it is safe for the child to return to his/her parents then the foster carers should be happy about this.
I imagine it would be sad to see the child go after a connect has been formed but it is ultimately going to be in the child’s interests to return home.
Unless, of course, you don’t trust that the right decisions are being made which again, raises the point I made earlier that not all children that are removed from their families need to be.
THis is beautifully written. I really appreciated the distinction between protecting and sheltering. I think (though I have not been in a foster parent/child situation) that it’s important to understand that with ANY AND EVERY family circumstances and situations are fluid.
I met a local social worker (unrelated to my dealings with DCFS)and when I told her that we were applying for fostering licensure, she blurted out, “THANK GOD, OUR FOSTER FAMILIES ARE TERRIBLE!” Then she toned it down, “I mean…umm…that’s great! We can always use good families!” It was that brief moment of total honesty that repeats in my head over and over. It’s the NEED of safe, loving households that keeps me motivated and outweighs my own hurt feelings that come with caring for other people’s children. When you start to hear about harmful foster home environments, and you see children become doubly victimized, you get to the point where you feel you that you can’t NOT be a foster parent. I do believe that your desire to help them will be stronger than your desire to “keep” them.
this is EXACTLY why my husband and I want to become foster parents once we have a home large enough to accommodate another person!
While I have never been a foster parent, I did have a life-changing experience with a foster child. As a teenager, I worked in a church nursery. One of the families – they had two children in grade school at the time – became foster parents to an infant.
Unlike most of the children who cling to their parents when they are handed off to you, he would cling to anyone who would hold him. I literally could not put him down at all. It was, honestly, the most heart wrenching thing to think that this adorable, sweet, little boy was so starved for attention that he would cling to anyone who would hold him. (He had been neglected).
As the weeks and months went by this began to subside and the day that he let me put him down and played on the floor with toys and the other kids, I seriously cried a little bit. I tear up just thinking about it.
Eventually, he was adopted and it was really hard on the family. I know that they, at least at the time, choose not to foster again because the adoption was so hard on them. I also know that they don’t regret doing it at all. It was a learning experience for their kids as well.
Ever since then, I have thought that I might become a foster parent. While the emotional toll of the child getting adopted is so insanely difficult, I just think of the gift of security and love we were all able to give that little boy and I just can’t help but think it’s worth it.
You are such a good parent and it will probably be hard on Jasper, but I also think that it can be a learning experience about other children and poverty and loss and all those sucky things that he will eventually deal with in life. Of course, I am currently not a parent, so I may be oversimplifying the difficulty of it.
Hope that helps.
My family has done foster care for about 10 years. They mostly have had teens that have aged out, which is super easy emotionally because it is a culturally normal for a child to leave at 18 or after high school.
My husband and I just had 2 little girls. the youngest was an toddler and the older child was in early elementary. We loved them… Love them so much. The little girl had called me mommy since 2 weeks in to this and we had had them for almost 10 months. DCS had decided to place them with their siblings…and unless something substantial changes probably terminate parental rights and the children will be adopted by the foster family that has the sibling group. My heart and my little girls heart was broken when the told us she had to be moved. In our state they don’t split sibling groups. We told our girls that we loved them enough to let them be with their family, and that we would always love them. We see them often and we babysit for them when the other foster mom needs a break. Before they took them I thought I would die, but I look at it as the way it should have happened… it is better for them to be with their family.
So basically what I am trying to say, is that it will tear your heart out but you will get over it. You have to remember no matter how attached you get that until you sign adoption papers that the children in your home are not yours. If you let yourself believe that that they are your children it will ruin you.
We never planned on being foster parents but when the opportunity arose we took it. It was a emotional roller coaster. Reunification with parents is always the goal of foster care. I was afraid of becoming “too attached” but ya know what everything worked out the way it was supposed to. I had a seasoned foster parent tell me ” You can’t protect yourself from the pain but you can learn to deal with it.” We are there for the kids, to support their futures.
There is also a great need for respite caregivers. Which is a great wading in option. The best resource I can say is fostering together. It’s a support group that is very active. I’m not sure if they are state specific or not but they would know the best resources in other states.
Would love to answer any other questions.
We went to an information meeting for fostering just last week.
If they have those near you, it was very helpful. Not the information they provided, because I had already read the entire section of the website and knew everything they told us, but the head of the foster parents association in town was at the meeting and got to tell us a bit about fostering from the fosterer’s perspective.
It’s hard. But it’s worth it, according to every story I have ever heard from a foster parent.
What I might actually be concerned about, more so than you dealing with them leaving, is you say your kid is 4. He’ll probably have a harder time with this than you, because you can understand what’s going on a lot better than he can at that age.
In my province, we have what’s called “respite” fostering, which is where you’re essentially a state-approved overnight babysitter for children already in the system. They usually take care of one or two sibling groups at pre-designated times (weekends once or twice a month generally), either from the main foster family the kids are with, or from the original family as part of a re-integration plan. You generally stay with the same sibling group(s) until their families no longer need those short breaks.
I think that many people start there, to ease the pain of “giving back” a child. Especially on other kids in the fostering family.
Then once they decide they are ready, they move “up” to full time fostering. Or, they decide they’re not ready and either keep doing respite or stop fostering.
There is also “emergency” fostering, which is usually just the first night or so, and then they go to another foster family once the social worker has made all the phone calls and found one who says yes.
No real advice here, just wanted to offer my congrats to you three for embarking on the process!
I love seeing people approach parenting (of any sort) through careful discernment. I think that being a foster parent is a very special parenting vocation that takes alot of compassion for parents who are failing as well as the kiddos who suffer as a consequence.
I have and am watching a few friends in real life and folks I admire online go through various aspects of this process. One of my favorite blogs is Mother Issues by Thorn: http://motherissues.wordpress.com/
Hugs and Good wishes!
I agree that respite would be a great way to start, mostly to see how you all go and what kind of affect it might have on Jasper. And given his age I’d probably stick with respite myself and be very careful about what placements you take given that what you know before hand is often very different from what comes out during a placement. I don’t mean to terrify you, but we had things happen in our home that I would describe as abuse and it was perpetrated by a very damaged child who was repeatedly described to us as an absolute angel. I know someone else who didn’t realise until years later that their youngest child’s sense of security was permanently damaged because he grew up believing if he was naughty his parents would send him away, since that’s what had happened to the kids that came into his family. Fostering is a wonderful thing to do if you can, but you need to be very conscious of the affect it may have on your family.
For me, looking at the question you’ve asked, it’s about the head space you go in with. If you had a friends kid stay with you for two weeks would you be heart broken when they went home? No. Well, to me fostering is the same thing. We are their carers, not their parents. And they become part of our family and we love them, but they do not belong to us and our job is to advocate for them and hope they can return to their family.
We do not have the option to adopt from foster care where I live, and so that colours my perspective. We consider ourselves the ‘inbetween’ family. They come to us when their parents can’t care for them, and we know the best thing that can happen is that they go home to their parents. Even if those parents are the stereotypical ‘no good horrible druggies’ – most often for us, they’ve been single parents with no one in their life to support them and very little resources. Because that’s that child’s family, they (almost always) truly love each other, and the parents really do want their kids to be okay. Our job is to do the best we can for them while they’re in our care and advocate for their families to help get them the support and services that will let them be a safe, happy & healthy home for the child. Even if it isn’t as safe, happy and healthy as we would like it to be.
That doesn’t mean that I haven’t been angry, sad or anything else about things that have happened while we’ve been fostering. It can be incredibly emotional which makes it so rewarding but also sometimes really painful. But the pain we have experienced, wasn’t from the kids going back to where they belong. It was from us not being able to protect them from the worst parts of the world. And I think that’s just the reality of all kinds of parenting.
“…most often for us, they’ve been single parents with no one in their life to support them and very little resources…”
This is a very needed comment. I think people look at those who have their children taken into foster care as terrible monsters, rather than people who lack support systems or who have fallen through the cracks. This is a great perspective.
Definitely Vivi. And I think people often don’t stop to consider what it would take for their kid to end up in care. None of us are that far from needing that kind of support. I say to people to think of the single parent’s they know and ask themselves what would happen to their kids if they were in a serious car accident / were struggling with life threatening depression / were diagnosed with MS / started taking too many pain killers with a glass of wine. How many of us don’t have people in our lives who can afford to take care of an extra child, or two, or three, for a week, a month or even a year?
Yes, a lot of families with kids in care have drug & alcohol issues, domestic abuse issues, and other issues that come with poverty that people like to blame them for. But there’s also a lot with intellectual disabilities, physical disabilities, mental illnesses, and medical problems. And it’s not unusual for people to have two or three of these things going on in their life.
I think one of the best kept secrets about foster kids is that they are just kids. Not monsters. Kids. And I think you can say the same for their parents. They’re not monsters. Most often they’re loving parents who need help and don’t have an appropriate family or community to lean on.
I have no advice but I must say that as a friend to a former foster kid and as a social worker it makes me beyond happy to think about a family like yours becoming foster parents.
My partner and I fostered teenage boys for two years. It was incredibly rewarding and difficult at the same time. I don’t know what system you work with (here in Canada, namely Manitoba, it’s Children & Family Services), but I found the hardest thing to be the system itself. My boys were great and I felt the only limit we had in our growing and learning from each other, was the limits the system places on us (it’s become very financially driven – even the best of social workers get worked to the bone). But that’s neither here nor there, that can be said about most fields of interest.
One motto I always kept when we had to let them go or when things changed drastically: Their life will be theirs, they will go down the path they will go down. What matters to me, and what I can control, is the memories they created (and we created together) while they were with us. Regardless if they are somewhere healthy or not now, they can always look back and know that they were loved. That they had fun. That they learned. That they grew. That they could live a normal, relatively well-adjusted life. Hopefully, in dark times, they can find solace in that. I know I have.
oh, yes, about the system itself: i am going to expand on my previous comment and say that you have to have compassion for everyone involved in the process, not just the kids and their family.
our kids’ case worker has 38 cases right now. which, obviously, can be frustrating from our end, but you have to have some compassion (and more practically, the more self-driven you are and less you have to rely on the services provided by the system the easier it will be).
I couldn’t agree more. We were relatively autonomous of the system, and generally even lessened our boys’ social workers’ workload – taking care of parent-teacher-student conferences, medical appointments, etc.
Most people are just trying to do the right thing, given their model of the world. It’s hard to do that when they’re worked to the bone.
I have never been a foster parent to a human child, but have been a foster parent to homeless animals for many years…so I have a view on fostering: While fostering orphaned kittens and abused/neglected dogs over the years I’ve had many, many people make comments like “it must be so hard to give them up” and “oh I could never do that” and I always thought to myself, well I’m glad I can do it. I’m glad these innocent beings have SOMEONE to care for them when no one else will. I’m glad there are others out there like me willing to accept the hardships of caring for more little ones in hopes of changing their lives for the better and giving them a second chance (and literally a chance at a life when it comes to fostering pets. Those without fosters/potential adopters often don’t come out of the shelter alive). Yes, it can be extremely hard giving them up sometimes, but I try to over-ride that with the happy thoughts of making a difference to their world.
Over my years of animal fostering I have often thought about fostering human children….and I have decided that I would love to and am really looking forward to the point in my life where I can (and potentially adopt). I know it will be hard, but in my experiences, the kids need SOMEONE to love and care for them when the ones that are supposed to can’t or won’t. If everyone avoided these hard issues, then they would have no one. And I, for one, would love to give what I have (a good, safe, loving home) to those that don’t have it and know that I made a difference, no matter how hard it can be, and change a life. I just hope that if I ever find myself in the position the original poster is talking about, that I can be as strong as I am with the foster animals and know it’s for the best. After all, that’s what we are here for: to do our best.
Good luck with your journey!
I think I might actually be more worried about how my own children would be when their foster siblings had to leave. I know my daughter gets upset when the foster animals gets adopted (not quite the same thing, I know, but it’s all I have to go off of).
My sister and her husband are parents to two wonderful foster kids – one of which will definitely stay with them, with the other one maybe leaving them in two years (depending on the biological mother’s capability to handle her life at that point). I am not sure I could do this – raise a child, love it and then have to hand it back, likely to never see it again. But my sister has got a wonderful point if view: If this way she can help a family develop their potential, she is happy. She has known from the start that this may be the outcome, and so far she and her husband seem to be coping just fine. She considers it to be a journey. (Heck, I love these kids, and don’t know what I will do if the tiny one leaves. This is definitely something to consider – what it will be like for the rest of your family… my brother-in-law also had a major fallout with his parents over the fact that he did not give them “real grandkids”.)
Taking in foster children is a great thing to do, but I think that it is also extremely complicated.
Yes, go to orientation! My husband and I signed up for the classes to get more info and possibly foster in a year, but we were licensed before we knew it. 🙂 Every state and county is different; in mine, you can’t take children older than your biological children unless there’s a special circumstance (if the child is a relative, sibling, etc). There’s also an overwhelming need for foster parents for older kids, so who knows?
To answer your question, I don’t know. I haven’t experienced it yet. My husband and I are licensed foster parents, but we haven’t received our first placement yet.
In our situation, we ONLY want to foster and not adopt. We’re going into it with the attitude that reunification is the goal and we’re there to help the child along. I know that he/she will be safe, warm, and fed in our care. I can’t promise that they will be completely healthy and happy, but we’ll do our best to take care of them until the parents are able to take over again.
I already know that it’s going to be hard to let a child go just because I get attached easily. At the same time, I’ll try to comfort myself that he/she is going to an amazing forever home with people who truly want that kid.
Since no one has yet mentioned this, I will add that the push (in the U.S.) is for foster parents who are also open to adoption (aka “concurrent planning”). While the job of a foster parent is to work toward reunification with the family of origin, being open to adoption prevents another move/transition/loss for the child if he/she is unable to return home.
I’ve been a foster parent for a few years now and have had a number of placements. (We do reunification cases only as we can’t afford to adopt at this time.) I’ve also been raised in a very foster-centric family- my great grandmother, grandmother, and mother were all foster moms. My family tree is pretty crazy!
Most of my reunifications have been great. We had a close relationship with the child’s family and really participated in the process of helping them learn the skills necessary to have a successful family. We still send cards and sometimes talk with some of them. Their families still send us Christmas cards, etc. When you can be actively involved in the building of a family it never feels like a loss.
My first really hard loss was fast and unexpected. His mother constantly played him against us, trying to make sure she never lost his love. She refused to attend meetings, she refused to participate in family therapy, and she wouldn’t talk to me unless it was to yell at me for something she thought I was doing wrong. In the end she was clean enough for long enough that the state decided she was no longer a threat to her child despite the fact she hadn’t completed over half of her treatment plan. This decision was made on a Friday while he was visiting her, so he never came home. I only briefly saw him again in his driveway while dropping off his things. A friend sees him every now and then and lets me know that he looks happy.
What gets me through is the fact that he KNOWS that we love him. He knows that if things ever get rough, if he ever needs anything, our phone numbers will NEVER change and he can ALWAYS come back to us. Our door is never closed to the children that we’ve taken in and we make sure they know it. Whenever a child leaves our care we give them a photo album. We include photos of our house, the family, the pets, and activities that we’ve done together. I hope that these things will help them remember their time with us fondly.
At my grandmother’s funeral there was a man that I had never met. He hung around the background, not really talking to anyone. Towards the end he came up to me and my sisters and told us that he had been in my grandmother’s care for a few months. After he left he continued to get in trouble and his family situation never really improved. He ended up going to jail for awhile and became an alcoholic. He wasted years of his life doing nothing. Then he told us that when he decided to get sober, the first person he thought of was my grandmother. He knew that she would give him another chance, whether he deserved it or not. He knew that she refused to give up on her kids. And he was right. She took him under her wing as if he had never left, just like he knew she would. He told us that he had been sober for 15 years.
I remember this. Years and years later, he remembered her, thought immediately back to her and the shelter that she provided. If I can do that for just one child I’ve done well.
As for Jasper, when a child is raised in the atmosphere of foster care I think it’s normal for them to have people moving in and out of their lives. It was normal for me. Heck, I brought kids home from school and became a (self)mandated reporter as a teen. I think that being raised with foster kids teaches children that relationships don’t depend entirely on proximity and that loss of proximity doesn’t have to mean that it’s over.
The one thing I would caution as he gets older- having a teen (or preteen) and fostering teens is complicated. There can be a lot of learned behavior on the part of your kid if he’s even the tiniest bit of an impressionable child. At that point I think it’s best to only foster kids who are younger than your child.
What about school? When a foster child is placed with you, are they completely ripped out of their environment and sent to school at the school your home is districted into? Or do they stay at their current school? If they stay at the old school, how do they get there and back? If they go to a new school, what does that do to their education? It seems like that would be an insane amount of wear and tear on a child in an already traumatic situation.
Where we are they try to keep school aged kids close enough that they can keep going to their current school as well as after school activities if it’s reasonable. But even for younger kids we try to keep things as consistent as possible especially with things like their routine. It’s a tricky balance but it helps the kids feel secure.
However, we have had a placement where it was actually beneficial for the child not to go to their school for a month as some of the issues they were facing were present there. In the time they were away they learnt better coping skills and we worked on other areas that were really difficult for them – making friends, stealing, emotional regulation. When they went back their teacher said they were like a different child. And that’s what we were hoping for as it meant they were able to participate and enjoy school which was just not happening before. To be honest, the change didn’t last long once they returned home, but it meant the teaching staff could see that it was possible, the child wasn’t the horrible monster they’d been treating them as, and that alone was priceless.
My parents started doing foster care when I was about 4 (continuing through my entire childhood and beyond), and I actually think I’m a much more well-adjusted individual because of it. For the first few years, though, I didn’t entirely understand why the kids would leave, and it was emotionally difficult at times. We were lucky to have good relationships with most of the biological families that “our” children returned to, though. I’m still in contact with several of my past foster siblings today, actually. As long as you take the time to talk about things (and emotions) with your own child, he should be just fine.
For safety reasons, however, I would caution you to be very careful about taking in children much older than your own, since overloaded social workers may not always tell you all of a child’s problems ahead of time–just in case your son could be exposed to something you’d rather he wasn’t (it can work, you just need to be careful).
I don’t have experience from the parent’s point of view, so my only advice is this; it is ok to cry after a child leaves your home, and it is ok if your son sees that you are sad. You will work through it and neither you nor he will be permanently traumatized. And it does get easier.
I strongly suggest my favorite NYC foster parenting blogs:
I know that I am stumbling on to this post way super late. I was actually recommended the post by a wonderful lady on OBB after I wrote this post: http://tribe.offbeatbride.com/journals/2013/06/sad-post-sorry
My parents have done foster care for the last 12 years. I ended up moving out of my parent’s house after we lost several of our “littles” back to back. Emotionally I could not handle it anymore. Honestly, it is hard. Very few biological families want you to keep a presence in their lives as it reminds them of the past. I miss my babies. They never leave you and some days are worse then others.
Sending all of you hugs. Regardless of all the pain… I want to foster and adopt. It is in my blood.