Saying Goodbye to a Foster Child: How to Cope at the End of a Placement

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24/05/2019 10:48am

One aspect of fostering that some people may find difficult is saying goodbye to a foster child at the end of their placement. Whether a child is reuniting with their birth family, moving into long-term foster care or adoption, or transitioning into adult life, it can be hard for foster carers to part with children who they have cared for.

In this guide, we’ll give you some coping strategies that may help to make this difficult transitional period easier for you and your family.

Why Foster Children May Have to Move

There are many different reasons why a foster child may need to leave your home, and these will be explained to you during your initial training. It’s important that new foster carers understand the circumstances around placement moves, so that they can better prepare themselves and their family should it happen.

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Here are some of the common scenarios in which a child may need to leave your care:

  • They return to living with one or both of their parents.
  • They enter long-term foster care or are adopted.
  • They may move to another placement to join one of their siblings.
  • They may move to a specialist care resource, such as a therapeutic placement or one specialising in caring for women who are expecting a child.
  • They may move because the placement has broken down and their behaviour means it’s no longer safe for them to be cared for in a family environment.
  • They may be transitioning into adult life.

These are just a few examples of the scenarios in which a child may need to leave your home. If you have any questions or concerns about a current placement, be sure to raise it with both your social worker and foster care support team.

How Placement Moves Can Affect Fostering Families

While it’s important that the focus remains on the best interests of the child, transitions like a child leaving your home can put a lot of strain on you, your partner, children and other extended family members who may have come to care for them. Foster carers do need to put their own feelings to one side in order to get the best possible outcome for the child, but this shouldn’t stop you from expressing your feelings when talking to your friends and family.

No matter which type of foster care you typically carry out – be it long- or short-term –we understand it can be emotional to see a child you’ve come to care for leave your family home. It can also be difficult for your biological children, who may not be old enough to understand why a child or young person is suddenly not around.

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As a means of coping when it is time for a child to leave your home, it’s important to be aware of your feelings and to talk about these to your family within your support network, social workers and wider foster care team.

Be sure to sit down with your own children to explain why a child is moving on where this is appropriate, so that they can understand what is happening without blaming themselves or misunderstanding why a child is leaving.

Tips on How to Cope at the End of Placement

Here, we list some of the practical steps you can take to make this process as comfortable as possible for you, your family and a foster child:

  • If a child is transitioning into adult life, help them gain their independence by gathering as much information as you can about them, their background and their heritage. This can help them come to terms with who they are, what they want to do and will help to develop a positive sense of identity before they step out into the world.
  • Create a scrapbook for them, documenting the memories you’ve shared during their time in your care. This can be anything from photographs to tickets and mementoes; anything that will help to show the positive impact you’ve had on one another’s lives.
  • If it’s appropriate, agree to keep in touch and make sure the child knows how to contact you. Make sure you OK this with their social worker before swapping details.
  • Work closely with your supervising social worker and foster care support team. They will do everything within their power to make the transition as smooth as possible for you, the child and your family, and may be able to refer you to aftercare support groups once the child has left your home.

At NFA, we’re committed to helping our foster carers through the ups, downs and everyday challenges of fostering, providing round-the-clock support and comprehensive training and guidance. For more information on fostering with us, visit the homepage.