I’ll never forget when we first met. You had just been removed from your mother and separated from your siblings. I was surprised to see you seemed fairly unphased, but in reality, your 5-year-old mind hadn’t fully grasped what had just happened.
The first few days with you went smoothly. I was shocked at how well you seemed to fit in. You were great with my infant daughter and enjoyed the pets in the house. You almost acted as if it was a vacation, and you would shortly return home. This is what they call the honeymoon phase.
RELATED: If You Give a Foster Family a Chicken Dinner
Then, a few weeks went by, and the trauma you had experienced prior to and during removal started to rear its ugly head. You acted out in every way possible, and who could blame you? You were dealt a terrible hand and you were angry at the world. In your mind, I was directly responsible for keeping you from your family. How were you supposed to understand that I and my husband were only trying to help? You had been taken from the only chaos you had ever known and thrown into this strangely quiet and clean environment. There were new rules and new routines, a new school and a new town. Nothing was the same, and girl, you were confused.
As first-time foster parents, and recently new parents period, we quickly realized we were not prepared to help you through your trauma and hurt.
We hung in there for as long as we could, but when things only seemed to be getting worse after several weeks, we made the hardest decision—to ask for your removal from our home. Our family had to come first. And we hated ourselves for that.
Even though we had zero control as to where you would go after leaving our home, all we could do was hope and pray that the next family would be able to do what we couldn’t—hang in there through the healing process.
RELATED: The Children in Our Hearts: A Foster Care Story
When I got the call that it was time for you to go, I began packing your things. We only had a couple of hours notice to try and explain what was happening. How do you tell a little girl who has already lost so much, that she would now be moving on again? My heart was broken. I prayed that you would forgive us and not feel rejection. You had such a sweet side, much of your behavior wasn’t even your own fault.
As you walked out that door, I gave you a hug, told you to be a good girl, and I kept a brave face. But honey, the moment you turned your back to head to the caseworker’s car, I melted into a puddle of tears. And after you left, I cried. And cried. And cried.
I had failed you. Like so many others in your life.
I tried to keep track of where you had gone. I broke the rules and sent my phone number in your things in case your new family had any questions. Much to my surprise, I got a message from your new foster mom the very same day you left. I was relieved to know where you were and that your new caregiver cared enough to inquire if you liked to sleep with a nightlight. I even got to talk to you on the phone a few times, it was painful and healing for us both all at the same time.
And then, you left that home. And you were placed into a facility. And then that facility was shut down. I have not talked to you since you left that second foster home, and I have no idea where you ended up. I blame myself, I could have avoided all of that by allowing you to stay in my home.
RELATED: Dear Foster Families, Your Love Matters
Now, my daughter is almost two, and I’ve since had another daughter. We also fostered a baby for a short time after you left. I feel like I have more experience with parenting now, I’m a better mom. I only wish I would have had that experience when you were with us. I pray you are doing well, that you feel loved and accepted wherever you may be.
And I just want you to know that I cared. I still do. I still think about you. You are loved, you are valued. Never forget that.
Your foster mom