Q: We hoped to adopt the 15-month-old we’ve been fostering, but it seems that the baby will be going back to his birth family. How can we explain this to our four-year-old, whom we adopted as an infant through foster care? I don’t want her to worry that she might have to leave our family, too.
A: No matter how well prepared you were, the return of a foster child to his birth family is a genuine loss that all of you will feel. It need not be devastating for your daughter, however. Explain that your family has been taking care of this baby while his birth mother decided whether she was ready to be a mom. You might say, “Not all women who have babies are ready to be mommies right away, and this is why we have been caring for him. But the baby’s mommy now feels that she is ready to take care of him.”
Then turn the discussion to your family: “Sometimes a birth mother cannot parent any baby at that time in her life. This is a very important decision, because it is forever. This means that the baby can be adopted by new parents, who will be that baby’s mommy and daddy forever and ever.” Tell her that this is what happened with her.
Your family’s responsibility is to give this baby excellent care as long as he’s with you, and then to give him a good sendoff. Your daughter’s participation in the process of saying goodbye to the baby can help her to understand her own adoption and to feel less powerless about this loss.