Foster carers are amazing. They open their hearts and their homes to children who are vulnerable, traumatised and in need of a lot of care and attention. We feel very lucky that our two daughters were placed with the same foster family.
It made introductions with our youngest easier for us. But, more importantly, it makes it a bit easier for our girls because they both spent the first few months of their lives in the same place. So they were cared for by the same people. That means the world.
I take my hat off to all foster carers because I honestly don’t know how they do it. I couldn’t.
Today’s magazine article is written by Julia Pepperwood about her feelings about taking their daughter away from her foster family.
Our daughter’s foster carers
I vividly remember doing our usual Sunday walk, not long after we were linked and had first met our daughter. I was worried and upset we were doing something that wasn’t in her best interests. I was concerned she would be better off staying where she was. That she would be happier there and that we were about to be the cause of immense pain for her.
She was living with foster carers who’d been generous enough to send us dozens of photos and videos of her, from when she arrived as a tiny baby to the little whirlwind she was by that point. From these it was clear how devoted they were to her. They’d been open and honest about their love for her and how they were feeling in the lead up to her coming to live with us.
It’s a situation I’d failed to picture properly. Taking a child from a loving home, from the only family she’d ever known. Insisting she live with the two of us, a pair of complete strangers. It felt wrong at the most basic level.
We talked this over as we walked. I’d known she would be coming from somewhere, but I’d been focusing solely on the loss of birth family. On how we could help her understand more about them, why she didn’t live with them, promote an open dialogue as she grew up and show her we would fully support reaching out to them at the right time.
I’d focused on her coming to live with us for her own safety because her birth family couldn’t keep her safe and well. The professionals around her had been left with no other choice than to entrust us with her care.
I’d sort of forgotten the middle bit and now I wasn’t sure how to feel about it. We’d discussed foster carers during our Stage Two training. However, it focused on how a foster placement can impact emotional development and attachment, depending on how many moves a child has had. Or how many other children they have been placed with between removal from birth family and placement with adoptive parents.
We were adopting during the pandemic too. All we’d had in our minds was a broken system with overworked social workers, overflowing foster placements and more and more children having to be removed from families as volatile situations tipped into being completely unsafe.
I hadn’t entertained the idea of a small foster family who raised a child from birth. Loved that child fiercely and had even considered, until it was deemed not viable, adding her to their own family through adoption.
We were causing her to lose her family for the second time and it felt so, so wrong.
Judging my parenting
We struggled at first to feel like her real parents. I judged my parenting against theirs almost every moment of the day. They’d known this child so well. Knew her every quirk. Could make her laugh and smile. Knew what food she liked, how to calm her when she was upset or that she preferred her pyjamas warmed on the radiator before bedtime.
We, on the other hand, didn’t know her at all. We were starting from scratch and getting a lot of things wrong. Our amazing social worker had prepared us for bringing a tiny stranger into our home and all that entailed. But what I wasn’t ready for was how much I felt I was living in the foster carers’ shadow.
As time has passed and our bond and attachment has grown, so has our confidence that they were her parents then, but we are her parents now and for always. If I imagined someone coming into my home now and starting the process of moving my daughter to another family… Well I couldn’t. I can’t bear to imagine how that would feel.
Only now can I fathom some of the feelings her carers must have felt when she left them. I’m forever grateful to them for the grace they showed in helping support us from the moment we met on zoom, to the final day of introductions.
We were eager to keep in contact with them because that had always been our intention. How could our daughter believe we would support contact with birth family, if we refused contact with these other important people who had parented her for so long? In this though, we struck luckier than we could have imagined.
Part of our family
We didn’t just want to stay in contact with them for her, but because we also thought they were amazing. During introductions, one day after we had put her to bed, we sat chatting with them and eating ice cream until late into the night. Everything felt easy and comfortable, and we all knew our bond was something incredibly unique.
Since she came home, we’ve slowly increased contact to every couple of months, with the intention of it being more frequently in the future. It no longer phases our daughter like it used to and we love spending time with them and their family immensely. They are our extended family now. We are blended by the love for one little dot, who isn’t all that little anymore.
We are auntie and uncle to their daughter, who is also adopted, and our children are ‘cousins’. No-one has lived through what we have all lived through together. We’ve experienced more intense highs and lows with them than we have had with some of our closest friends and family. No-one can ever truly understand our bond, and no one can ever really understand how deep that bond goes.
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