Most of the children who come into my home are babies or at least under the age of 5. I have cared for older children, but somehow over the past few years it’s the little ones who keep coming through my front door.
Sometimes these little darlings go back to their birth families, some go to their new families when they are adopted and some stick around. As I write this I have one playing at my feet and one being burped on my lap while we wait for the third to come home from his family visit. I am perfecting the art of one handed typing.
Saying goodbye is such a personal process. In the weeks, days or hours before one of my kids moves on, I start my goodbye by writing them a letter. In this letter I try to tell them a bit about the time they have spent with me, some of their experiences and milestones. I like to tell them a little about their personality traits and my hopes for their future. Mostly I want them to know how loved and cherished they were.
If they were newborn when they came to me, then I like to tell them some of the details of when they were still in hospital and when they came home. Of course they will have either a lifebook or journal that goes with them, but these letters are something very personal from me to them. I hope I can help them to fill in a little but important piece of a big jigsaw.
For some children who are being adopted, they won’t get to read this letter until they are 18 years of age and able to request their file. I try to imagine how it might be for them to get this little window into their very early lives. I know that I am the only one who can tell them about this time in their lives, so I try to honour that precious role.
On their last morning with me I always take a photo of us together. The protocol for children being adopted is that the foster carer is not in any photos that go with the child. So this photo is for me and for them but they won’t get to see it until they can access their file.
I am usually able to hold onto my emotions right up until the point where they are heading off for the last time. If I can, I like to carry them out to the car, strap them into their seat, tell them I love them and give them a final kiss goodbye. After that, I’m a mess and the best thing that can happen is for the parents or workers to drive off into the sunset and leave me to shed some tears for that little piece of humanity who needed me for a little while.
If I can, I’ll take myself off to a sad movie and sit there in the dark shedding a quiet tear. It’s remarkably therapeutic. After all the build up and the final farewell it’s great to have a moment to myself with a wonderful distraction (I never get to see films these days!!).
Life goes on and I try to get on and do things I can’t normally do when I have a bubba in tow – there’s always plenty of jobs to do around my house & garden. It gives me the change and purpose I need and before I know it, the phone is ringing and someone else is on their way to me.