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Saying goodbye to a foster child: how to cope at the end of a placement

Friday 24 May 2019

One aspect of fostering that some people may find difficult is saying goodbye to a foster child at the end of their placement. Here are some coping strategies that may help to make this difficult transitional period easier for you and your family, and the fostered child.

How placement moves can affect fostering families

It’s important that the focus remains on the best interests of the child. However, 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.

As a foster carer, you need to put your own feelings to one side in order to get the best possible outcome for the child. 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 really 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.

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.

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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 mementos; 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.

Why foster children move on

There are many different reasons why a foster child may need to leave your home:

  • 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.

We’ll explain all these to you during your initial training. It’s important for new foster carers to understand the circumstances around placement moves, so that they can better prepare themselves and their family.

At National Fostering Group, we’re committed to helping our foster carers through the ups, downs and everyday challenges of fostering. This includes providing round-the-clock fostering support, training and guidance. If you’re interested in becoming a foster carer, please get in touch.

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Find out if you could be a foster carer
In a few simple questions, you’ll know if you’re suitable to apply to become a foster carer.