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How to tell a foster child they are leaving

When you foster with Family Fostering Partners, family comes first; the value of a familial bond is central to everything we do with our network of foster parents and the children in their care.  It's no surprise then that when a foster placement ends, it's an emotional time, causing sadness and grief both for the family left behind and the child who's moving on. Saying goodbye to a foster child is perhaps one of the hardest aspects of being a foster parent. 

When it comes to navigating the complexities of foster care, knowing how to tell a foster child they are leaving, and preparing for saying goodbye to a foster child, are critical aspects that require sensitivity and care. The conclusion of a foster placement is invariably a deeply emotional event, marked by feelings of sadness and loss, experienced by both the foster family and the child moving on.

Understanding the reasons for a foster placement ending

With all types of foster care, there is always the understanding that the placement will end unless the placement becomes a legal adoption by the foster family. There are many different reasons why a foster placement may come to an end. Some common reasons for having to say goodbye to a foster child include:

  • Adoption by another family
  • Reunification with the birth family
  • A child being old enough and ready to live independently.
  • A move to a different foster home for various reasons
  • A need for a specialist care placement

How to tell a foster child they are leaving 

Saying goodbye to a foster child is never ever easy. Our fostering families pour so much love and hard work into the children in our collective care, making those ‘goodbyes’ so hard. Handling the process of saying goodbye can be guided by the foster parents as well as the supervising social worker. It can be determined by the child's age or the nature of the move, e.g. adoption.  

Trust the court's decision 

As a foster parent, you may have reservations about a child in your care moving elsewhere or even back to their birth family. But, ultimately, you should trust that the court's decision is the right one. 

Stay positive 

This next move in the child's life has their best interests at heart, but that's not necessarily how the child will see it. Open and age-appropriate conversations about what is to come should help facilitate a successful transition. Whilst saying goodbye to a foster child is painful, you can look forward to making an impact on the lives of other vulnerable children that need your care and support.  

Strategies for saying goodbye to a foster child

You might be nervous about this next stage, but you can be sure the child will be too. Keep an open dialogue throughout, answering any questions as best you can as the move date gets closer. When we are asked “how to tell a foster child they are leaving”, the answer is simple. 

  • With the support of your dedicated link worker 
  • With openness and honesty in an age-appropriate way 

Emphasise the positive memories

Sharing photos, stories, or videos of the happy times you've shared are a great way to reinforce a sense of a child's value and personal identity. In some cases, proactive contact can be sustained between the birth and foster families too. Read more about the importance of making memories.

Take it one day at a time

Both the lead up to the leaving date and the aftermath can be stressful times. It is not uncommon for a child to be removed from the home very suddenly, which can be a shock. However, take one day at a time so you and your family can adjust and grieve for the person you have lost. During these difficult transitions, we encourage our foster parents to use the resources of their designated Link Workers, with the option to also reach out to Foster Talk for personal advice and guidance.  

When a foster care placement doesn't work out 

Sometimes the placement simply isn't working, and this realisation brings conflicting emotions. It is important to remember that you are only human, and if you've done your best, it might be time to discuss other solutions with your Link Worker. If things become difficult outside of the usual 9-5 working hours, you can be assured that Family Fostering Partners are contactable 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  

Support and guidance for how to tell a foster child they are leaving

The topic that we’ve covered in this blog post can be daunting and upsetting, however, it is unfortunately a part of fostering and is therefore an important subject to consider and learn about. It’s important to note that if you faced with the possibility of saying goodbye to a foster child then we will be with you to support and guide you throughout the process.

Knowing how to tell a foster child they are leaving is probably the most difficult task a foster parent may ever have to face, that’s why, at Family Fostering Partners, we will be there for you throughout your fostering journey, supporting and helping in any way that we can. Additionally, every foster parent with us receives free membership of an organisation called FosterTalk who are able to offer even more support and guidance to carers.

If you would like to chat to an agency who will be there to support you through each stage of your fostering journey, you can get in touch with us today by visiting our contact us page.

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