I can't believe I am typing this, but after six months in care with our family, W is gone. I knew that Friday, there was a real possibility that he would be moved, and that his time in foster care would be over. However, I had NO idea that everything would end the way it did.
See, while my husband and I would have adopted W, given the chance, we were told from the very beginning of his time with us that he would be a very temporary member of our family. We were very careful to explain (and reiterate) this to Eli to help him understand, and we welcomed W for the time that we had him. We loved and cared about W. We took him places and tried to broaden his horizons. We watched him overcome struggle after struggle. In the meantime, we were told about family members who were stepping up to help with the children in W's family, and that one or more of them might pursue custody. This actually looked very likely over the summer, and at one point W was told by his caseworker that he would be leaving us before the end of June. But, that day came and went without so much as a phone call. In August, he received a new caseworker, who pushed for the children to return home to the birth mother, rather than being placed with a different family member.
Then it happened.
Friday, I was told in the morning to stay near my phone. I received a cryptic text message that something might be changing in W's situation around 11 AM...and I just knew. I still wasn't expecting the phone call at 3:45 that afternoon that he was being sent home immediately. The caseworker actually said that she was on her way to pick him up at school and take him home to his mother. I completely hit the roof, and demanded that she let ME pick him up from school, and then take him back to my home for his clothes and toys first. Thankfully, she acquiesced, on the condition that I meet her halfway to his mother's home. I texted the hubs, who was still at work, so that he would know, too.
I had difficulty finishing work that day. I was trying NOT to think about what was happening; one of my fellow teachers realized that I was upset, immediately guessed what had happened and offered encouragement. When I arrived at the daycare, I explained to the teacher and the owner that it was W's last day, and that he would be returning home, so that they could give him hugs. As I picked him up, I explained to W that it was his last day at Eli's school, so that he could say goodbye to friends and teachers. As we were in the car, buckled up on the way home, I told W that he was going home to his mommy. At first, W was really excited. I think he thought he was going on a visit. At first, Eli was nonchalant. I don't think he fully understood what was happening.
Patrick and I got home at about the same time. He let W pick a show to watch on TV while I went about the business of sorting and folding his clothes for packing.
At that point, reality really started to hit all of us. Eli began to argue with W's choice of TV show, and Patrick gently reminded Eli that, since it was W's last time watching TV with us, that W should get to choose. It was then that it hit home for Eli, and he began to cry. W was still happily watching TV as Patrick comforted Eli. It hit home for me moments later, as I realized that I would not have time to wash the last few items of W's clothing in the hamper, and that I would have to send a few items home dirty. It hit W pretty hard when he saw me come out of his room with all of his clothes, books, and toys packed into a plastic tote and bookbags. Patrick tried explaining to him that he was "going home to his mommy," but W began crying and repeating "Go home here, Appa." Nonetheless, we knew what we had to do, and I drove him to meet up with the caseworker, as agreed.
We haven't heard anything about W since Friday night, and we probably won't. His leaving was both much easier and much more difficult than I'd imagined. It is really weird to walk through the house and for him to not be here; it's a little eerie to walk into our back bedroom at night and see only Itty Bitty in his crib. It is weird to walk through the house and not have to fuss at one of the boys for being rowdy or wild, since Eli has been - for the most part - very quiet since W left.
In the meantime, as we are getting used to a 'new normal' without W,
Patrick and I are contemplating what to do in the near future. We were definitely attached to W, and will need some time to process his rapid departure. Our current reality is that we do not
know when another call for another child will come, but we will be trying to prepare our home and our hearts for when this happens.
And I think we will end up taking on another child. Because, when I think back to the little boy who was brought to our doorstep more than 6 months ago with only the clothes on his back and a few donated items from the Methodist church, it is bittersweet. My heart aches with pity for the lost, confused little toddler that W was when he arrived....and for the happy memories we had with the bouncing, thriving preschooler who was sent back home. W went from being a child who did not know his own name and could only speak a very few words, to a child who was very vocal and opinionated. From a child who could not put on any article of clothing independently, to a child who completely mastered his own self-care routine - including picking out clothes and independently dressing himself - in the morning. We love W, and are all sad to lose his presence in our lives, but we are also grateful for the chance to have been in his life and to help him. Even though we will miss him, we are also glad for the family experiences that were made richer because he was here. While Patrick and I, admittedly, have some worries in our hearts for what W's future may hold, we do believe that it is right that he be able to grow up surrounded by his own family members, as long as they are willing to care for him. My family and I will continue to pray that, though our time with him was short, that we made enough of a positive difference in his life to make a life-long impact toward good. And I think we will, as a family, welcome the opportunity to continue trying to make a difference for children sent our way.