Foster Mom: The Child We Couldn’t Keep

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“Would you like a little girl?”

It was the phone call we had been waiting for. We were currently a family of five with two boys and one girl. Our foster son Jack had been with us for a year and it looked more and more like we were going to be able to adopt him. Joanna and James had adjusted to him well and we felt like we were ready to take on another. After speaking with our family service worker, we made arrangements to meet Susanna, age nine.

Before you get a placement, you are given broad strokes information about their case; why they are in foster care and how they are doing behaviorally, emotionally and academically. Because she was already adoptable, we had a full disclosure meeting with Susanna’s whole team; the child’s attorney, her caseworker, our family service worker, her foster dad and many more. Susanna’s case was one of the worst we’d seen. The physical abuse, sexual abuse, severe neglect and rampant drug use this child had been subjected to was horrific. Given the severity of her case, my husband and I wanted to talk it over before we made a final decision. When we got in the car, we both agreed that something didn’t fit and it seemed as if they were holding something back. We chalked it up to being nervous about a new placement with a case this severe but it still nagged at me, always wiggling at the back of my brain.

Because of this, we thought it might be best to do respite care for Susanna to try to get to know her and feel her out a little. (Respite care is where foster families take in children for the day, overnight or the weekend to give their foster families a break.) Our first weekend with Susanna was sunshine and roses. This is typical of foster kids, especially ones that are looking for a permanent home. It’s referred to as ‘the honeymoon phase’. She was a sweet child with a wide grin and beautiful deep blue eyes that were cautious but hopeful that we were her ‘forever family’. She played outside with my other kids; riding scooters, jumping on the trampoline, digging holes in the dirt. She ate well and slept well. There were a few rubs along the way but nothing that couldn’t be attributed to her being the new kid on the block. The weekend went swimmingly and we asked to continue to do respite with Susanna.

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