Foster carer and journalist David Bocking on his experience of when foster children move on.
When you’re telling your friends about your cute temporary infant, they all eventually ask about what is known in the trade as the ‘transition’.
“How will you feel when he/she moves on?” they say, sometimes in a whisper in case the youngster is listening. For our first foster baby, of course we had no idea what we’d be like when he left us and joined his new family.
“I couldn’t do it,” people often say. “I’d be in pieces.” Weirdly, love him as we did, it all went through very calmly.
We met his new ‘mum’, who lives in Sheffield, got on really well with her, and soon after found ourselves turning up as the middle aged couple who nobody else knows at his first birthday party, where after a few minutes he giggled and dribbled all over us just as he always had.
The reason we’d not become emotional wrecks was because we’d had time to prepare, we realised. We always knew he’d be moving on to a permanent home, and we could see he’d be very happy where he was heading. And, as foster carers, there’d be another one along soon.
It’s a bit like a teacher who invests everything in a class for a year, then watches them move on in July knowing another class is starting in September.
The transition is designed primarily to benefit the child, and in our case involved around a fortnight of meetings with the new family as baby gradually spent more time with them, and then he just saw us once a week for a while until he settled and, let’s be honest, pretty much forgot all about us.
We provide photos, a memory box and a diary so when he’s older, he can learn about his first few months of life, and, if his new family agree, we stay in contact and meet up to admire how he’s getting on every now and then.
Our job (which is what fostering is) was to keep him safe, happy and developing well while we had him, and knowing he’d only be with us for a few months meant we could hand him on knowing that we’d done our job, harsh as it sounds.
Now, just as she’s showing signs of talking and crawling, second baby is preparing for transition, unbeknownst to her. In a few weeks the court will decide her future, and all being well, we can stop having to watch ‘In The Night Garden,’ and we’ll be able to go out without the array of special feeding equipment that babies with her condition need. We’ll miss her, but now she’s on her way to becoming a toddler she needs to get on with her life.
And then we’ll wait for the call to say: “We have a little boy/girl aged… can you take him/ her?” And it will all start again.
Six months ago, a friend with no imminent ambitions towards fatherhood spotted us with a frail little girl in our pram, rather than the usual young lad built like a rugby player.
“Who’s that?” he japed. “Have you been to the baby library?”