Foster Mom: Saying Goodbye Hurts The Most

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twokidsinfieldWe had been certified foster parents for about two months when we got our first call. The placement specialist on the phone said, “We are trying to place a sibling set; a girl and a boy. Would you be able to take them?” My mind raced faster than I thought possible. I had a thousand questions but asked only two: How old are they and when are they coming?

It takes a few days to get children in foster care enrolled in a new school district and daycare. After a little scrambling, my husband made arrangements to take the rest of the week off. We told our kids Joanna, 11 and James, 8, what was happening and we not-so-patiently waited for them to arrive by pacing the floor and checking the clock.

At 6pm that Wednesday evening, they pulled in and all I could hear was the screaming. Gut wrenching, terror filled screams that no child should ever have to make. Joey* was frightened beyond words and the look he gave me was indescribable. He clung to and was repulsed by the caseworker all at the same time. The terror, panic and rage on his face is something I’m not likely to ever forget. As the caseworker came in and sat down, his sister Katie* followed. She was 6-years-old, very slim and happy to be there. She began chatting with us about herself and her brother right way. She was nervous but excited, which struck me as extremely sad. He was too young to understand what was happening. She wasn’t and was happy about it. The horrendous physical abuse and neglect that she had suffered at the hands of her mother had made the change a welcome one for her.

The first night was a long one, to say the least. After taking the toddler from the caseworker so she could leave, my husband took Katie and showed her the bedroom so I could try to calm the baby. He wrapped himself around me and shrieked like a banshee if I tried to put him down. We sat in my old wooden rocking chair and rocked. Belly to belly, we rocked. His head on my chest, we rocked. Little arms and legs gripping me, we rocked. Two hours I rocked and sang while he screamed and our hearts broke; his for the loss of his family and mine for him. As Joey’s scream slowly became a whimper, he sat back a bit and let his eyes meet mine for the first time. I carried him, whimpering, to bed with me and we slept.

The next evening when I got home from work, I was greeted by our little Katie-Bug. She’d had, in her words, “a super fun day.” They had read stories, colored pictures, watched television and had breakfast and lunch. My husband’s story was a bit different. He said that Joey had stayed on his lap all day refusing to be put down. Katie had to entertain herself with television and snacks all day. Though their stories were vastly different, I was glad they seemed to be settling in.

As the weeks wore on, our family began to get into a groove. Waking early and going to bed late was how my husband and I lived. With four kids, saying we were busy was the understatement of the year. We were busy but happy. The new kids were quickly adapting to their new surroundings; Joey was quickly adjusting to life in daycare and Katie was doing well in school. Our kids all got along well and were constantly wrestling, playing, building forts and doing regular kid stuff. It was a blur but it was great.

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