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What Happens When Fostered Children Leave?

Saying 'goodbye' can be hard. We talk about what happens when a fostered child leaves, and what you can do when it happens in your family.

February 23 2023 - 3 min read

There are lots of reasons why a foster child might need to come and live with a family like yours. Normally, though, a foster family arrangement is not forever, and one day there will be other arrangements made for the fostered child. Sometimes, this means they will get to be reunited with their birth family.

No matter how long you have been living with your foster brother or sister, it can be hard to see them go. It can also take some getting used to to go back to what life was like before they joined your family. Here, we are going to talk about what happens when a fostered child leaves, and what you can do when it happens in your family:

Fostered Children Only Leave for Good Reasons

The foster care system makes sure that kids are taken care of when their situations are not so great. Some children are fostered because their parents can’t look after them for a little while, for example if they are very sick. Other children don’t have parents anymore, and live in foster homes while they are waiting for a permanent home. Foster families give kids like them somewhere to be safe and a family to look after them while they are waiting for their situations to change.

This means that, sometimes, a foster child will move on from their foster family. This is only ever done for good reasons, and with the best interests of the foster child in mind. The system that manages fostering makes sure that children are placed with good families, and that they stay with them as long as they need to, but then helps them go on to either a more permanent place to live, or to go home to their birth family.

How Soon Do They Leave?

Because there are so many different reasons why a foster child might have to leave, the amount of time you will have between when you are told they are leaving, and when they go, can be different. A lot of the time, your family will know that your foster brother or sister will be leaving days or weeks ahead, but in some cases it can be the same day. This means it can sometimes be something you can all prepare for together, but other times, it can be a bit of a shock. While you always knew a fostered child wouldn’t be living with you forever, it can be really hard to accept it when they do have to go - especially if you don’t have very long to say goodbye. This is why it is important to remember that they are only leaving because it will make their situation better in the long term - even if it feels very sad at the time.

Can You Stay in Touch with Them After They Leave?

One of the biggest questions people normally have when their foster brother or sister leaves is whether or not they will be able to stay in touch with them and see them again. There is really no one size fits all answer to this, because of how different the situations of foster children can be. If you are a family with older kids, then of course you can keep in contact with things like social media, but young kids may not be able to stay in touch after they go. Sometimes foster families are not very close to where the child originally comes from, or where they are going to be living in the future, and so seeing them may not be so easy.

It will really depend on the circumstances of your own foster brother or sister and your family how close you can remain after they leave. This is something foster parents will have been made aware of and which they will have discussed with the social workers involved in your foster brother or sister’s case. You can talk to your family about if and how you will stay in contact after your foster sibling leaves.

Can You Help Make Things Easier for Them?

It can be hard for foster kids to leave the families they have been staying with. Even if they are happy about where they are going to be living now, they are probably going to miss you and your family, as well as friends at school and their lives with you. They also might not know much about where they are going to be moving to if it isn’t back to their birth family.

You can help them by talking to them about what they might be worried about, and being kind to them if they are sad, but you can also help them in practical ways. You can help them pack and make sure they have everything they came with. You might also want to give them some gifts to help remember their time with you by. A lot of kids like to give their foster brother or sister something of theirs to take with them, but you can also give them things like photos or artwork that will remind them of you and your family.

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When You Feel Sad

Having a foster child leave is sad for the whole family, even though you know it is for the best for that kid. Your parents will probably be feeling very emotional about having a child they have been looking after moving out, and of course, you and any brothers or sisters you have will miss having another child in the home with you. It is normal to miss them and feel like the house is a little empty. The best thing to do is talk to your family and share how you all feel. Focus on the good memories and the positive difference you were able to make in another child’s life.

While it may be sad, it was better to have had the good times you did with your foster brother or sister, and to wish them the best for their new home.

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