When we first became foster parents, the day that we got our license, the agency explained that we were "on call." This meant that, in theory, we could receive a call - day or night - asking us to take a child with very little information and very little notice. Once a child or children are placed in a home, that home is taken off of the call list, when children leave, a foster family has to decide whether or not to go back "on call", as well as when to go back "on call."
Since W left on Friday afternoon, everything has seemed so...quiet and calm. Mornings have become less hectic. I have fewer children to gather and drive to preschool. I have less (surprisingly, LOTS less) laundry in the pile affectionately known as "Mount Washmore."
But it's not going to stay this way.
We have been talking as a family since W left, and trying to answer so many questions. Are we okay? Are we planning to take another child? If we do, when? Do we need a few weeks to just be a family of four? Do we need to wait until Itty Bitty is older, or until we have some more definite answers in his case?
Unsurprisingly, we really don't have the answers to these questions yet. We all are a bit shaken, due to the suddenness of W's departure; he was gone less than 3 hours after I received the phone call that he'd be moving out. We are all sad that he is gone, though we knew that he would one day leave. Eli has definitely had some feelings of sadness and loss, though he is showing signs of healing. Talking about W feels awkward at this point to all of us, though this is also improving. And don't even get me started on the anger that I feel toward his caseworker; the woman who is supposed to represent his best interests, but who handled his transition out of our home very poorly.
But, in the midst of everything that's happened, we also feel stronger. We did it. We were able to foster a child, and to help a family who needed it. We dealt with the uncertainty and all of the "ifs" and "whens" that come with foster care. Eli went with me to drop W off with the caseworker and his (W's) siblings, and Eli was able to see them together, and that the eldest two were excited about their return. He knows that W has another home and another place to be, and a part of all of us is glad for W, that he will be able to be with his family members.
In the meantime, we are finishing the process of cleaning out the clothing that W outgrew - and hoping that Itty Bitty will still be with us one day to wear it. We are removing W's car seats from our cars (and waiting on a certain caseworker to actually RETURN a car seat) and storing them. We are putting away the items that weren't able to go home with W. And, we are preparing our hearts and minds for what may come.
While we really don't know the timing or details, we will likely foster another child, since, for now, we've decided to leave our home and hearts open and place our family back "on call".