Pain, impermanence, and how much I miss my foster siblings

Guest post by Jennifer

By: Josh PesaventoCC BY 2.0
My parents have been foster parents for the past 12 years, and by extension my siblings and I have been foster siblings. It hasn’t always been easy — there has been joy, lots of pain, and laughter. Over the years we have had over 80 children. Some for a night, some for a weekend, some for a few months, and some for years.

Each time I meet these children, my heart breaks. They come into our lives dirty, scared, angry, hungry, bruised, and typically with the clothes on their backs. If the social workers bring them to the house, 90% of the time they are holding a McDonald’s kid’s meal. If we meet them somewhere, we stop by the first place that the child wants to eat. Food is a priority, followed by a bath and a new pair of pajamas. You would not believe how many calls we have gotten at 6pm and had the child by 7:30 pm.

There have been many children who have come and then gone without a backwards glance. Those are typically just our “weekenders.” They just need a place for the night or the weekend until whichever relative that wants them is “checked out.” We have had some children that are great when they get to the house and then within a few weeks, we realize that either they need more direct help than we can give them or that the other children in the house are at risk.

Most of the times when we get children, we know nothing. We are doing great to know their name and age. Their “story” comes out in the first couple of weeks. One time, we took an five-day-old infant from another foster family because she was “high-risk” and they were not prepared. We had no idea what her name was the entire time we had her. I was a senior in high school and my friends and I named her Madeline Grace.

It was not until we had to go out of town and we had another foster family watch her that we found out her name. The other foster mom was in the process of adopting an autistic four-year-old. When Maddie Grace went to stay with her, the little boy was entranced. After consulting with our social worker, Maddie Grace stayed with that family. At her adoption ceremony, we found out her real name.

So, all that leads to this. There have been children who have come into our home and our hearts. We bawl — and I mean bawl — when they leave. One to his forever home and several to their families. These children leaving is close to losing a family member. We don’t see most of them again, though every so often we get to check in on one or two. We have even adopted one of our foster children — it took six years, but we did it.

My favorite kiddos

There were two who were my favorites — D and F. When D and F lived with us my dream was to have them in my wedding. I am a dreamer and I had built my hopes in to the point where I just knew they would be there. D lived with us for five years and F for three and a half years. I know their birthdays, the days they moved in, and the day they moved out.

And I struggle yearly on those days. D left on December 18, 2009 and F left on August 9, 2010. Those two were my world when we had them. I was going to adopt F. I worked my butt off in school and work to try to get her. Did I care that I would be a single mom to a beautiful little girl? No.

I can just sit all day and cry. I miss them all the time.

Having to help raise the “littles” and then give them up constantly takes a toll on one’s emotional self.

My poor fiancé tries to understand. I try to explain but it is hard to explain. Having to help raise the “littles” and then give them up constantly takes a toll on one’s emotional self. I ended up moving away from my parent’s house (eight hours away) and ended up meeting my fiancé two months later. Part of me thinks that if I had not moved away, I would have never met my love and never be where I am at now. He pushes me to be the best at whatever I am doing at the moment and it helps keep me be focused (more than he will ever realize).

It is just that on days like today, when I am at home, just waiting to go to class, that it hits me. It creeps up and jumps on my back. As much as I try and shake it off, I can’t! The pain of missing a child who was like family is such an evil little booger. I don’t know how to balance being simultaneously happy and sad — or how to explain what it’s like to want something that’s impossible to happen. All I know is I miss my kiddos.

Comments on Pain, impermanence, and how much I miss my foster siblings

  1. Thanks for your post. I can relate, although on a much lighter level. I am a nanny, and when I finish with families I always feel almost haunted by the kids. I’ve poured my love into them for sometimes a year or more, and then I leave. Although I keep in touch with nearly everyone via email, it’s far from the same. I nannied for one family half a world away that had infant twins, and I remember crying with the twins months before I moved home knowing how much I would miss them!

    My husband and I are considering maybe looking into foster care, and this is the only thing that holds me back. I know that the ultimate goal of foster care is reunion, but the gut wrenching feeling when the kids leave persists no matter what, I assume. I would love to hear how people deal with this. I can tell myself its a selfless things until I’m blue in the face but my emotions won’t necessarily listen.

  2. My husband and I have been talking very seriously about becoming foster parents but we have two children already and I worry about the emotional impact on them and us. I would love to hear more about how people deal with this.

    • My parents were foster parents from about when I was 2 to around 8 or 9. I have a brother who is 2 years younger and a sister who is two years older and all the foster kids where within that range. I honestly don’t remember ever being distraught or sad when any of the kids left because I was so young when the fostering started, It was just a part of life! Sometimes mom would wake you up in the middle of the night to introduce you to a new kid and they’d be gone by the time we got home from school the next day and sometimes we had the kids for 2 years! I do know that my mom had to explain to my older sister that we weren’t foster kids and no one was going to come take her away but it was a one time conversation.
      I think as long as you have honest talks with your kids about whats happening and why they will be ok.

  3. Once again I consider myself totally blessed that my brother “aged out” with us and still lives at home with my parents at age 27. He’s been with us for 10 years now, and though there were highs and lows, he’s part of the family, no matter what.

  4. Thank you, for all you have done to make your foster siblings feel welcome and worthy of respect.We need more foster carers, particuarly the good ones. I was in foster care and have another younger sister as a result. Now as an adult I have helped my foster mum raise her daughter at times. Its been lovely to give back that way as due to health issues I can’t become a foster parent. I also give back through my career as a social worker. Please if more people can consider becoming a foster parent, it will be a great help, its not easy but adults like me wouldn’t be where I am today with a foster parent that changed my life and who I love very much, after a lot of ups and downs, 25 years after I went into care at age 13, we are closer than ever and I am changing my surname to reflect that bond.

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