We knew from the very beginning our foster child wasn't going to stay. Our caseworker drilled that into our heads from day one. He was hell bent on moving our FS into a home with a relative. He never had a chance with us.
So I pretended he was a dog. A rescue dog. A foster dog.
Because that's what I know.
Because that's what I'm used to.
Because that's what I'm good at.
And it helped me cope.
But it's not.
You see when a dog comes into the foster care system it's because his/her owner no longer wants them. They relinquish the dog and their rights and move on.
Many times the dogs are abused and neglected. Others simply because they no longer have the time to take care of the dog. And for many it's the financial burden of owning a dog. Finding them a new home and a new life is the goal. And though sad to see them leave, because you have developed a bond, you know in your heart, they are going to get the life they always deserved.
When a child comes into the system it can also be because they were abused or neglected. It can be because of financial burden. It can be because they can no longer care for them.
But they aren't giving them up. Relinquishing rights. They are still their parents. Most of the time, they want or at least say they want to get better, to be better, to get their kids back. But returning home or being placed with family doesn't always have a happy ending. And for foster parents having to say goodbye is not only sad, it's heartbreaking.
Heartbreaking because there are so many what ifs and unanswered questions. Will the child get the help he needs? Does this person really have the child's best interest in mind? Many times we never know what ever happened to that child.
We pray everyday they aren't confused and crying themselves to sleep wondering where we went. Why we abandoned them. Why the only safe haven they have ever known was ripped from them. Why.
Throughout my rescue years I would beat myself up many nights thinking the same exact thing about the dogs that left me. I should have kept him. I should have adopted him. Is he wondering where I'm at? Can I keep doing this?
Over the years I was a habitual foster failure. There were several dogs that I did adopt. I did keep. Because I couldn't let go.
It's not like that with fostering children. They are not yours. They belong to someone else. And honestly, you are just an over glorified babysitter. Unlike rescue fosters, you are at the bottom of the food chain. Rarely are you thanked or appreciated. Very rarely does a parent or a relative send you an updated photo or a Christmas card. To many parents you are the enemy and to many caseworkers you are just a holding facility.
In my 13 years of running a dog rescue I never reduced any of my foster families to the equivalent of the gum on the bottom of my shoe. I appreciated them. I put them on a pedestal. I involved them in choosing new homes. Because without them we couldn't continue to help dogs in need.
We. Couldn't. Do. It. Without. Them.
Fostering children is really nothing like fostering dogs.
Because rescue dogs have happy endings.
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