Saying Goodbye to Foster Siblings

Last week your sister for the past nine months left our home. It was not sudden. In fact, we had three weeks to plan and think about it. She had longer visits with her family on the weekends to prepare for the move. And each weekend we talked about where she was. You would inform our friends, “Baby with her mommy.”

You understood.

Yet we recognized that you did not fully know what that meant.

So, Mom and Dad worried about how her move would affect you.


Prior to her joining our family, you had shared the house with three other foster siblings. You enjoyed kissing the infants and playing with mobile ones, but you did not seem to miss them much when they were gone. You were too young to remember or care, we reasoned. However, this time, we were not sure what your response would be like. As a 30-month-old, you are old enough to understand that she’s not coming back.

Frequent goodbyes are part of foster care — both for the kids in care and the families they are staying with. Dad and Mom knew that fact when we signed up. We weighed the (personal) risks and decided it was worth it.

But we did not have kids back then.

We want you to have a permanent sibling because we believe you need consistency at home just like any other kid. However, we cannot guarantee when you will have a permanent sibling (if ever).

When families open themselves to the possibilities, we are also opening up to the pain.

This week, as the house was quieter and you were lonely for a playmate, you repeatedly said, “You my mommy.” At first, I thought this was the game that you play often: you will declare that I am Daddy or Nana or Sammy (really, anyone I’m clearly not) and giggle and encourage me to rename you, too. However, it took a few days for us to notice that this time it was not a statement but, rather, a question. As in, “You are my mommy forever, right? Not like with Baby. Because I thought you were her mom, but you aren’t.”

That is heartbreaking.

So, we have spent the last several days reassuring you that you are staying. That we are staying. Even when you aren’t asking, we are telling you.

We simply did not anticipate this.

Looking back, it’s obvious that we could have coached you better. For a 2-year-old, it needs to be crystal clear what is happening.

Goodbyes are difficult for us, too. And they probably will not get easier with time. When you truly love someone and care about their future, it often hurts when they leave your life. I want you to know that Dad and Mom are very sad that Baby is gone, too.

We love her — and her family. We want them all to be healthy and whole.

We accepted her into our home, but we did not choose for her to leave.

We pray for all our children. We do not know what they are experiencing now, but the Sovereign One cares deeply for the weak and vulnerable. He is El Roi who sees them living in this broken, cursed world. We pray He sheds light onto anything that is happening in the dark. We pray for early intervention.

We cried the night before Baby left as we anticipated our final hours with her. We prayed that God would protect and save her parents, because true hope is only found in the gospel of Jesus Christ. He alone brings new life and change.

Moreover, Christ alone gives our family the ability to love as we ought.

For that reason we will continue to love people who are struggling. Although it may seem painful for our family, including you (in the short term), we pray it will increase your capacity to show compassion and to love without hesitation (in the long term).

Another adoptive parent said it this way: “Some of the most painful things in life are the things that give us the greatest opportunities to grow (change) and become more loving and gracious.”

We love you, dear girl. You are a gift from God for your brief childhood. As we raise you, we rely on God to provide and to meet us where our inadequacies begin. We are seeking to train you to be an adult who is sensitive to His will.

Recently we have set up new parameters and “preferences” with Children Services to protect your heart as best we can, while still allowing the opportunity to welcome new children in our home. Hopefully one of those new children will stay forever, just like you.

hemingway - goodbye.


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Elaine and her husband are licensed as an adoptive family and foster home.



One thought on “Saying Goodbye to Foster Siblings

  1. Watching my forever kids interact with their foster siblings is the best part of fostering. And watching them miss their foster siblings is the worst part of fostering. So hard. Worth it in the end, but still really, really hard.

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