Transitioning a foster kid to adoption: Have you seen Little Orphan Annie? Well, it’s nothing like that

‘I’d love to foster, but I couldn’t because I’d become too attached. I just couldn’t let them go’.

There are many hellos and goodbyes in fostering, and if it doesn’t impact you emotionally, I can only suggest you must be doing it wrong.

Yeah yeah, we all love the songs and the happy ending (sorry about the Spoiler) but the chances of you getting an all singing all dancing cute kid are fairly remote.

We’d had a four year old for a little over a year. Social Workers, Solicitors and a Judge had all decided he could never return home to his Birth Parents. As I understand it, this is not a decision that’s made lightly. This little kid, who’d only just started Primary School, had no idea that there was not a suitable blood relation or family friend who could look after him.  He was entirely in the Care of the State.

A Social Worker visited our house to decide what the plan was.

According to her notes, and she’d never met the little fellow before, he was ‘nonverbal and non-ambulatory’. She sat in our lounge asking us about him. 

Suddenly, the door flew open, the subject of our discussion raced in, climbed onto the sofa, did a star jump and shouted ‘look at me’.

It was clear that what was written and what was reality were far removed from one another.

After more chatting and note taking, she told us ‘I think you’ve made him adoptable’.

I don’t think we’ve ever been prouder.

This Social Worker explained that she would begin the process of finding a forever family for him.

Family is the privilege everyone should be able to take for granted. The little kid is holding my Mum and Dad’s hands whilst in a day trip to a theme park. He learnt to trust them pretty quickly.

I believe there are more children wanting to be adopted than there are potential adopters.  It’s a brutal situation.

In a ‘Supply/Demand Market’, cute kids with few health concerns get adopted first. Often featured in our culture, think Stuart Little, Queen’s Gambit and Little Orphan Annie, the reality is even more distressing.

Aged four, our little man was deemed ‘just about adoptable’.

The Social Worker rang us a few weeks later saying she thought she’d found a suitable family.

This family had been through the rigorous process of being ‘assessed’.

Many heterosexual adopters have tried to conceive naturally, been unsuccessful, sought treatment such as IVF, been unsuccessful, and then come to adoption as a ‘last resort’. Some adopters are single and some are gay. They all have their lives turned inside out as The Social Care System decides whether they’re suitable to adopt a child and become a parent.

Infertility is indiscriminate and pays little attention to class, colour or creed.

The adoption process is not for the faint hearted.

I was to meet the potential adopters in an impersonal Council Office to chat about their prospective son, who lived with us, who was already four, who’d already experienced so much, but whom they’d  never met.

It’s very very hard to describe a kid in these circumstances. 

The adopting family sent us photos and video messages of themselves.

We showed them to our foster child and tried to explain that these were to be his new Mummy and his new Daddy.

A transition schedule was arranged.

The new Mum and Dad would come to our house for a few hours each day, take the little man on day trips, introduce him to their house and their family and gradually move his belongings, and him, from ours to theirs.

A couple of a Birth kids and a foster kid up a tree. We have always fostered as a family.

It was a Tuesday morning when he finally left.

A Social Worker took him and his last bag of stuff.

‘Goodbye’ we said, as we closed the front door, trying to downplay the trauma of a final ‘goodbye’.

Once we knew he had gone, my wife and I and our two birth children burst into tears.

It was like a funeral and a birth all at the same.

Tears are the price we pay for love, and I think we did love him, even though he was only ever ours temporarily.

Some adopters keep in touch with the foster carers, but as foster carers you have no right to insist on this.

We know this little boy is happy and safe.

We know we did the best we could.

If you’re interested in finding out about fostering or adoption, contact me or your Council

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Birth parent, Foster Carer, Adopter and Recruiter of Foster Carers for Liverpool City Council

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