IT HAPPENED TO ME: Returning My Foster Children to Their Biological Parents Has Traumatized Me

It was the hardest experience I have ever gone through. I was a stay-at-home mom with no children in my home.
Publish date:
December 27, 2016
ptsd, infertility, foster care, foster parent

My husband and I became foster parents because of infertility. Finding out we would never have our own children was hard, but it was something that we could handle.

Receiving our first foster-care placement was, to me, like giving birth. He felt like he was mine from the moment I saw his beautiful face. He was a newborn, redheaded, blue-eyed baby boy. I knew he was not mine but case workers told me he would be eventually, that I just needed to let his mother work out her plan. They said there was no way the judge would give her back the baby with the kind of violence that was in her home.

So I treated him like he was mine. I got newborn pictures taken and bought him a Bible with his name — and with our last name — engraved in it. A year went by and nothing had changed; court dates were put off, and he remained in the system. I trusted that the case workers would not tell me something that was not true.

He was 21 months old when I was told the day before court that he would be returning to his biological mother. My husband and I showed up at court but were made to wait outside. The judge did not allow foster parents in his court room. After court was over, I cried continuously as I said to my husband over and over again, “I can’t lose my son, I can’t lose my son.” But the decision was made, and we all sat together with lawyers, the mother, and caseworkers making a transition plan. My little boy would transition back for two months before he went to live with his birth mother in perpetuity.

This was two months of hell for me and for him. I was a stay-at-home mom to him. He was accustomed to seeing me 24 hours a day, and I him. He was thrown into daycare every day of the week and he had to spend time at his birth mother’s home the first month. He cried every day when I dropped him off at daycare. I know that all children go through a phase of not wanting to start daycare, but he went from being the most joyous almost 2-year-old to being extremely sad, to the point he was shaking and wailing. I was made to leave him at the daycare and walk out with his arms wide open while he screamed, “Mommy, mommy!” I had to take him to his mother’s house and pick him up three times a week. I had to peel him off me and force him into her arms.

It was the hardest experience I have ever gone through. I was a stay-at-home mom with no children in my home. When he was not there, I would just sit and cry in his room.

The second month, he was starting to spend the night at her house a couple nights a week. I did not know how I was going to bring myself to pack his stuff up, so I started doing it a little at a time. I would bring a box every-time I went to her house to get him. Eventually, his room grew bare. The very last night he spent at my house as my foster child, I stood in the door way peering into his crib thinking this was it, this was the last time he would sleep in his bed. How was I going to drop him off the next morning? It took a lot of praying and a lot of scripture reading, but I did it. I was not sure at the time if I would ever see him again, but his birth mother needed help and of course I was there.

He is now 4 years old and visits us every weekend. He vacations with us, and still calls us Mommy and Daddy.

After he transitioned back to his biological mother, I felt the need to fill the void in my home. I accepted a new foster placement into my home within the same month — a newborn baby girl whose father was illegally in the US and in prison for sexually assaulting his older teenage daughters; he was eventually deported back to Mexico. The mother was also illegally in the US but was given a chance to get her children back, including the new born girl in my home. Within 6 months the baby girl transitioned back to her mother.

At this point, transition was not a word I wanted to hear anymore. When the girl was returned to her mother along with the siblings who were in other foster homes, they stayed in the US for about another year and then the mother took them all to Mexico to be with the predatory father. It made me sick. Nothing could be done.

In addition to losing these children, I was still suffering from the pain of infertility. I was done fostering.

It's is not for everyone. I was a damn good mother, but a terrible foster parent. I was a baby-wearing, school-involved, cooking-every-night type of mom, but emotionally I was a wreck. I would not take back the experience for the world, but I would give up the awful transition period of my first placement.

I developed symptoms of PTSD from the transition experience. Even years later, I have flashbacks of seeing my little boy's crying face, I feel the same feelings I did as when the transition was happening, and then the anxiety rushes in. I still fear losing him forever. My life is centered around him. I still don’t work just icase his mother needs me to babysit last-minute. I don’t plan anything without him, and I even convinced my husband to take him on our 10-year wedding anniversary trip. If I do anything fun without him I feel guilty.

Although I know the heart has many rooms, many places for love to enter, we have not pursued adoption by any other means. I am afraid I could never love another child as much as I love this child. I tried! When I took in two other placements, I did not let myself get attached. I loved them, but at a distance. I was guarded, and for good reason. I lost them both. I lost them all.

My hope is that these children took something with them from their stay with us. I hope they took structure, religion, care, comfort, and love with them. I fostered over 10 children during my three years as a foster parent. Many of them I just kept them overnight or for a couple of weeks, and sometimes I kept them as respite care. These kids are the true victims, not me. I sometimes feel guilty for having so much grief from the experience, but I hope that one day I can heal from it and help children again in other ways.