Three weeks ago our five year old foster daughter returned home to her birthmother. We have spent the 16 months of parenting her developing a strong relationship with her birth family. Not just developing a relationship with her parents, buts aunts, uncles, significant others, and grandparents as well. We worked on building this relationship for several reasons. First, we had parented this child for nearly a year when she was one and two years old. Therefore, we love her, we have known her for most of her life, and she feels like a member of our family. In addition, we adopted her 10-year-old birth cousin with whom she had lived as sisters.
Her return home was very difficult for her cousin to accept. However, we promised the girls that they would be able to spend nights together occasionally. Over the past three weeks, we gathered up other belongings that had been left behind. We wanted to give mother and daughter time to settle into a routine and didn’t want them to feel like we were intruding. Then we finally called and asked to bring the belongings over.
Our previous foster daughter was so happy to see us. She looked happy, healthy, and clean. After she hugged us all she began begging to spend the night. I asked mom when she had to work next and if she would like us to keep her on that day. We made the plans and drove away.
A couple of days later we picked her up to spend the night. She enjoyed spending time with everyone, especially her Uncle Daddy. That is what she has always called her foster father. They played video games together and rocked for a while. She went around the farm greeting all of the animals. When we took her home, she was already asking to spend the night again.
I am not sure how long this relationship will last. I do think that the transition from our home back to birth mom is a little easier for her knowing we are still here. We have been a part of her life for four years. The only birthday we were not part of was her first one.
It must be traumatic for foster children to leave the family they have loved and trusted for a year or more and then never see them again. We have been down that road as well and I know it was hard on all of us.
Photo Credit: 2008 Julia Fuller.