I never had the privilege of knowing my son at birth; it would be over seven years before he and I met. There were people who loved him and cared for him before I came on the scene, and that reassures me; it means that there were times in his life before he came to me that were happy.
He had those happiest moments when he was with his foster carers, the two people who gave him stability, warmth, and love for the first and most consistent time. Understandably, he formed a huge bond with them that transcends a “mere” business transaction – yes, his foster carers were paid for what they did, but they deserved to be; it was their professional career and their most intimate personal moments all combined into one.
I have the utmost respect and admiration for foster carers across the board; oftentimes, foster care is a transitory business, where children come and go with little or no warning, and carers lack the full parental responsibility but have the children in their life every single day – celebrating the triumphs, nursing the injuries, and counselling them through the emotional turbulence – so become their rock.
Whilst many foster children stay in long-term foster care and develop wonderful relationships with their carers – becoming their parents; I’ve seen it happen, and it’s fantastic – many others know that they will one day move on from that placement and (hopefully) into a “forever family”. That puts both “teams” in an odd situation; the foster children want to invest in and cherish their stable, loving environment, but the thought is right there that things are going to be changing soon – and changing to what? They’ve got a secure, happy home for the first time in their life, and soon it’ll be changing again. Why do I have to move anyway? I like it here; why do I have to go? Have I done something wrong?
Children often carry the weight of the world on their shoulders, especially when they’ve been through bad experiences and believe that it’s down to them to fix them. It’s not, of course; it never is. It’s our responsibility as adults – be that parents, uncles and aunts, grandparents, or just part of the support network that cherish the next generation – and we must accept that responsibility.
My son’s foster carers gave him that love and stability; he needed it. No, more than that; he was crying out for it, and these two brilliant people – as well as all their family – enveloped him in love. You can see how much he needed and welcomed that by his own development over the time he was with them; he grew and flourished, and I saw – when I myself was welcomed into their home – the relationship they had forged.
I reflected on it a lot over the intervening months, when they brought him to his forever home, how hard it must have been for them – for all of them. They helped raise this young man and shape him, giving my son his first taste of normal, warm family love, and then he came into a new environment that he didn’t know and was different to the comfort he knew – I promised him that he was loved, but I needed to prove it, and that would take time. It would be new and fresh and intriguing and frightening, all in the same breath.
For his carers, it inevitably felt odd; they were “losing” a foster child they had cared for over a significant period of time. Inevitably, they had fought for him, advocated for his needs, and loved him – how could you not? They’re human beings with feelings of their own, and to not allow yourself to love this young man is nigh on impossible.
So I admire and envy foster carers; they have given him a sense of love and care that contributed to my son’s well-being. The healing process could begin with them, and he came to me a happier boy because of what they did for him.
This is absolutely a love letter to good foster carers, who deserve all the credit they get. To the two of you involved in my son’s life, thank you … thank you for everything. To all foster carers who treat children in care as a part of their own family – I applaud you.