You can’t help but get attached to a child in your care—whether he or she is with you for a few days or a few years. Just like most parents experience some sadness when their kids leave home for college or jobs, foster parents may also grieve when the kids in care leave . . . only the circumstances are often bittersweet and complex.
Foster parent grief isn’t talked about much, but yet it’s cited as one of the most common reasons for not continuing to foster. Months or years of caring for a child who moves can leave a hole in the hearts and lives of foster families.
Sometimes parents also grieve when they cannot bond with a child or cannot meet the needs of a child. Many grieve when they give a 30-day notice (of terminating the placement). The situation is fraught with emotion for all.
Stages of Grief and Loss
There are as many ways to experience loss and express grief as there are people. One cries. Another is stoic. A child becomes defiant. A teen cannot sleep. Others only want to sleep. Some throw themselves into work.
Here are some examples of the stages of grief with some common examples of reactions foster parents may experience.
Denial. Parents may deny an attachment to a child. Some who give a 30-day notice, may deny any feelings of sadness but grieve even though they know that were unable to help. “I won’t miss him. He was so naughty.”
Anger. Parents may blame social services, the system, or some other person for a removal of a child. They focus on issues that are not at the heart of the matter. “It’s the social worker’s fault that Amy went back to her mom.”