Reflections from a foster carer: Diary of introductions

For Foster Care Fortnight 2017, we asked foster carers for their thoughts.

As part of Foster Care Fortnight 2017, we have asked some of our foster carer friends to share about their experiences. This blog is one foster carer’s diary of introductions, sharing first-hand the range and depth of emotions that these significant few days will bring to the surface as a child moves on from foster care to their forever family.

Saturday

Had a lovely ‘moving on’ party for our little one today. It was a gentle event for H and his little toddler friends. We tried to pitch it for him and his pace and began during nap time, so when our little one woke, he was ready for all the frivolity – and cake!

There have been so many people I wanted to thank who have supported me and our family on this journey, so the party was a way for me to say thank you to them. It was also a celebration of our little one’s life so far and all the achievements and milestones he has reached. I also felt it was useful to help all his little toddler friends make sense of their loss. There has been a little band of them that are thick as thieves in the playground, and at various toddler groups, and I do think it helped them to understand where their friend was going and why.

I was overwhelmed by people’s generosity – H was given such lovely gifts and mementos. I have been struck by how interested and involved my friends have been in what we are doing, which is amazing. I just couldn’t do this without them.

Monday

Feeling like I am beginning to process what is about to happen. Our first ever placement is coming to an end as H moves on to his forever home soon.

Today has been a day of tying up loose ends and important goodbyes.

My lovely Health Visitor – who has supported me and backed me up and vouched for me whilst I’ve been looking after our little one – has just been to do her last home visit. We weighed and measured H (he doesn’t like it much) and chatted about developmental milestones and progress and she was really encouraging. I love how this job is so varied and I get to work alongside so many other professionals.

In the afternoon, although our little one was having a nap, his guardian popped around one last time to see us both. She works for CAFCASS and has been another amazing person to work alongside. She has advocated not only for H but for me as well, and has taught me a lot about the court system and processes.

There is a lot to take in, but it made me realise how important my role as foster carer is. I have the perspective of seeing all the different agencies and piecing it together to build a picture of care for our little one.

Thursday

Today is the day! H will be meeting his forever family today.

So, meeting at the council offices with his adopters and a room full of social workers. We have a very clear plan in place and discuss what will be happening on each of the seven days of the introduction process.

It’s nerve wracking going in to the meeting, but probably much more so for the adoptive parents. I have my first real glimpse of what is about to happen: they are about to become a family. And I get to be part of that process. Wowzers. This really is what it’s all about.

We talk in great detail about the plan. Everyone knows what their role is. After an hour and a half, I get a quick head start home to collect H from my lovely friend and get home to do a quick tidy round. Obviously, the adopters are hot on my heels to meet their little one for the first time EVER.

It’s been a good day, but emotionally charged, and I’m ready for a night with my husband. We try to make sure we have time for each other once a week, and tonight is it. It’s crisps and dips night – Aldi’s finest.

Night Y’all.

Sunday

I’m totally immersed in the introductions process and honestly I don’t feel I can come up for air.

I thought I was doing OK, but then I watched the film Australia. Who doesn’t love Hugh Jackman? It caught me by surprise – even though I’ve watched it a hundred times – and I sat and cried and cried. My husband went up to bed, not knowing what to do with me.

It’s good to cry. I think I got it all out (it’s a long film). H has been part of our family for 14 months and in that time we have had lots of hospital admissions and sitting by a cot side wondering and waiting. Our birth kids love him as part of our family.

We have nurtured every milestone, cheered when he has achieved it and scooped him up when he has fallen. We have loved H. Ultimately, we have to love our foster children children like they’re ours and let them go like they’re not. We have to put aside our feelings of loss because these children need our love more than we need to protect ourselves from the hurt. And I’d do it all again.

Now where’s Hugh Jackman…?

Wednesday

Introductions are intrusive, stressful and intense. But they are necessary.

H seemed to like them from the safety of my hip, but now the time has come for his new parents to take over his care it is very different. Bath times are screamy to the point I thought he would be sick! My daughter and I just needed to go out to get away from the crying last night so we took ourselves off to Sainsbury’s. It is hard not to go up and interfere (and in all honesty just take over) but I know that would have been counter-productive.

Honestly, though, I have felt so carried, covered, prayed for, encouraged and walked with it has been unbelievable. No doubt things will catch me over the coming days and weeks.

Today H is with his new family for almost the whole day, before they bring him back for bed tonight. I keep thinking I can hear him crying and this afternoon my son came home from school and asked me if H was having a nap. We all still shut the stair gate every time we went upstairs.

It’s surreal at the moment but OK. We’ll get there. No more baby bottles in the dishwasher, no more nappies in the bins, no baby clothes in the laundry basket and – soon – no baby H to cuddle.

Friday

Today is the day that H leaves us. I know I won’t be able to see him go. My husband can do that bit. I’ve given the kids the choice. One wants to and the other doesn’t, so that one will stay with me.

It’s happening swiftly and early. I hear them come to the door, and then it’s all over, and we go from being a family of five to being a family of four again.

Now, I’m a planner, so we are off for soft play and breakfast (did I mention that I’m also a comfort eater?), and after that we head out for a picnic lunch – yes, I know, more food. By the end of the day there has been a real transformation.

It was a wretched day first thing. My son, aged five, said ‘today is the saddest day of my life’, but on the way home later, he said it was the best day of his life. Call him fickle, but I say, children are often resilient and strong and, given the support and framework they need, can go on to do great things and be great people.

And we try to remember that although we are coping with a great loss, a new family was made today. Lives were transformed today.

That is a good thing.

A huge thank you to our friend for being so open and willing to share her experiences.

To better understand the process of introductions, please read our accompanying article Making Sense of Introductions.

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