Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Moving On / Goodbye Party for Children in Foster Care

Sometimes in the course of doing foster care, children have to move homes for a variety of reasons.  Perhaps the foster parent is moving or will no longer be a foster parent.  Or the child may need to move because of a behavioral or safety issue in the foster home, or might have other siblings in the foster care system that they will be reunited with.  And of course, when foster children are adopted by someone other than the foster parent, they will be moving to the new adoptive home.  No matter what the reason, any move is difficult on the child and on the foster family.

One way to help with the transition and help to memorialize the time that the child and the foster family had together is to have a Moving on / Goodbye Party.  I think it is one of the best gifts you can give your foster child and yourself as you process this change.  It teaches you, your foster children, other birth children, family and friends so much.

It teaches us all to say goodbye in a healthy way - which is especially helpful for children to have been moved with little to no warning in the past.  Either from home to home, or at least when they originally came into care.  It also places a new importance on relationships and proves that time we spend with each other is meaningful no matter how long or short, and worth celebrating.   Many hurt children view families and relationships as interchangeable.  They may tell you with their words that a move isn't a big deal, but you can show them the move and the time with you IS important.

It also gives your family and friends a chance to say goodbye and grieve the loss of the relationship with the foster child as well.  This is particularly helpful for children as it makes the loss a tangible thing, instead of a scary one. And last but not least, it gives everyone one last time to have FUN together.


Ideas of presents for kids:
  1. Meaningful gifts between the guest and the child. 
  2. I told my guests, "Gifts are not required, just your presence. However, if you would like to give the child something, anything meaningful from your heart to theirs would be wonderful."

Decorations:
  1. Photos of your time together.
  2. Posters - Celebrating (insert child's name)!
  3. Artwork done by the child.

Activities:
  1. Food is always a good idea, choose a favorite desert of the child, or a food that is meaningful from your time together. 
  2. Have guests write notes to the child, including memories, thoughts and prayers for the child's future, encouragement for the next step in their journey.  I created blank pages for the child's life-book with the title, "You are so special: Notes from friends you made while living with your foster mom, Alisa."
  3. Discuss favorite memories from time with child.

Tips:
  1. Have the party either a day or two before the child moves, or if possible a day or two AFTER the child moves.  This way you can focus on the celebration and not be thinking about packing, or saying the more serious goodbyes between the foster family and the child.
  2. Invite close friends and family that know and care about the child only.  Fridge friends may want to be included, but you want to make the party a safe place for the child to have whatever emotions come.
  3. Keep the time short - 2 hours max.  This can be a very emotional time for you and your child.
  4. Explain to the child that this is a time to celebrate them and your time together.  That it is okay if they are sad, but they don't HAVE to be.  Be upbeat yourself, but tune into what the child is feeling.
{ You have something valuable to add to the discussion.  Please share, I'd love to hear it. }

      3 comments :

      1. Great post! When I was living at my foster home we would have a going away party for anyone who was leaving. Not only did it give us a chance to say good bye but it gave be a sense of confidence that the future was brighter. I felt it was celebrating a new step in life. Thanks for the post, brought back good memories for me!

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      2. Thanks for your comment - parties are so fun. I am glad that its good from the whole families point of view. I took a look at your blog and I am SO glad that you are doing one. You have such a great writing style and bravo for sharing about what foster care is like for the kids. It is a unique perspective here in blog world, and I will definitely be reading your blog. Thank again - Alisa.

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      3. Hi Alisa:

        I thought of this idea last night while I couldn't sleep, and wondered if it was a good idea or what. We have a 22 year old gal that has been with us since she was 17. She will be moving on this month. I wanted to show her she was special and part of our extended family, no matter where she is and that I have learned a lot from her.....social skills, recipes, lots of things. She has taught me more than I have taught her.
        Bless you and your ideas for helping me make a concrete idea out of this for her. Bless you! ~~Jody

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      It'll be a pleasure hearing your thoughts. Alisa