Packing Up & Saying Good-Bye: The Chores & Emotions of the Final Day of Placement
Three months ago baby girl joined our family. I "live posted" the first day to give a window into what the day of a new placement is like for a foster family. Today, our sweet little girl was reunited with her parents. Many of you shared how helpful it was to have a window into the first day of placement, so I decided to invite you along for the last day as well. Now for all of the projects and chores and emotions of the final day of a placement...
The New Jersey state government was shut down for the weekend because of a budgetary disagreement. The courts were closed for a few days, so I thought there was a good chance baby girl's court date would be pushed back.
I get a text from baby girl's worker:
10:00 - Good morning. Mom and dad got custody of *baby girl*. Might be out today to get her. Let you know for sure in a few.
10:30 - Hello. Coming to pick up *baby girl*. I'll be there at 12:30. Is that ok with you?
How about 1:30?
I like to send a photo book home, but I only had two hours to choose the pictures, have them printed, and pick them up. I went through every memory of the past three months. There's nothing that takes an emotional day and makes it more emotional than looking at pictures! I teared up and smiled as I remembered how small and frail she was when she joined our family, the excitement of coming off of the monitor, the cuddles and laughs with the other kids, and all of the beautiful smiles.
I had already asked her previous foster mom for photos from their time with her. I printed 50 photos of baby girl, most just of her beautiful self, a few of her with our family members.
I ran around doing laundry and dishes, pulling out bins of clothes and cases of diapers. I want to do everything I can do help mom and dad be successful. I sent her home with more clothes than one child could ever wear, a case of diapers and wipes, a bunch of bottles and bibs, a few cans of formula, blankets and pacis and swaddles and everything else she could need for the next few months.
I wrote a letter to mom and dad. I told them how happy I am that they'll be together with their daughter, as a family. I told them how much I've loved caring for their daughter, that she was so loved by our family. I told them that I wanted to do everything I could to help them all through the transition, so I wanted to share everything I had learned about her in my three months with her. I told them about her formula and her swaddles, her schedule and her routines. And then I followed it all with: "But you are her parents, you'll figure out what's best for her, and you're more than welcome to ignore all of this completely."
I got everything packed up. I'm sure you've heard of the stigma of the foster kid's black trash bag. I always keep rubbermaid bins, inexpensive duffel bags, and large reusable shopping bags (T.J. Maxx for the win!) on hand to pack up my kids' stuff. This, of course, was only a small portion of everything I sent home with baby girl.
The girls head up for naps, so we stop for a quick good-bye and final picture. I sometimes worry about the two (adopted) girls and their understanding of why other kids come and go, but they stay forever. I've done my best to prepare and explain, but they ask the same questions again. Big Sis lets me know she understands (as much as a three year old can) when she says: "We were her foster mom (*haha*), but now she's living with her other mom........You're my mommy forever."
I have a new favorite "good-bye" tradition. The book "Love You From Right Here" is just a treasure. This book's beautiful and simple words explain the journey and depth of a foster mom's love, from the first moments of placement to the struggles and growths to the happy memories to the final good-bye. Every time I read it, I weep over the final words: "I'll still love you from right here." The final pages of the book have room for photos and memories and messages. I plan on re-stocking my supply of this book, as I fully intend on sending this along with every child who leaves my home.
I change baby girl into her "homecoming" outfit. I'm so proud of dad, his love for her and his determination to fight for her. I went shopping last week on a mission for a special outfit to send her home in. A "Fresh and Rad Like Dad" onesie seemed appropriate.
The worker shows up 15 minutes early, and I have a pit in my stomach. My husband left work to get Little Mama from camp, pick up the pictures, and rush home for a goodbye. I'm so afraid my girl is going to miss her and will be so devastated that she didn't get to say good-bye. Thankfully, they walk in a minute later and share tearful good-byes.
I share my own good-bye with baby girl.
Finding out she's leaving is emotional and sad. Preparing for her to leave is hectic and stressful. But actually stopping for my good-bye allows me to remember the full picture of what's happening. Yes, I am losing this little girl that I love. It is sad for me and my family.
But, ultimately, today is a happy day. Today a family is reunited. Today a mother and father begin the journey of parenting their daughter. Today a brother and sister meet their baby sister for the first time. Today a little girl--a little girl who I love so dearly--joins her family. Today is a happy day.