Fostering: Is Saying Goodbye Really That Hard?

I knew this day would come.  From the first day we thought about fostering kids, I wondered what it would be like to love a child for a certain period of time, and then say goodbye to them at some point.  This past weekend, saying goodbye became a reality.

Seven months ago, we received this little girl, our first foster daughter, late one night.  I have written on it in numerous posts before.  We got the phone call around midnight, prayed really quickly as a couple, and then agreed we would take her into our family.

I remember everything being a rush.  It all seemed to happen so fast.   Next thing I knew, I was holding a little girl.  The Child Protective Services guys began explaining all sorts of details about the process.  The only thing that I could think of was how this would change our family dynamic.  It did.

Fast forward seven months, and we now passing her on.  She and her two brothers were being adopted together.  We had done our part, and now it was time to say goodbye.

So in the parking lot of the Dept of Health and Human Services, we knelt down together as a family around her and prayed.  I prayed that God would protect her, that He would grow her into a Godly woman, and that she would one day come to understand more of His great love for her.  And then we said goodbye.

(This is one of my last hugs with our little foster daughter. It killed me when she started pointing out my nose, just like I had taught her.)

Since many people say they could never foster for this reason, I at least wanted to give you some inside scoop as to what it was like to pass a young girl off to another family.  Here are a few things that stuck out to me:

1. It was harder for me than for my wife. She says this is probably because of our little foster daughter’s age.  Because we got her at a year old, and had her seven months, she didn’t have that early baby connection with her.  Whereas with me, I had been wrestling with her and teaching her many different words, so it was tough.  I’m sure this is also a uniqueness about my wife.

2. We knew we were part of a team. Entering into fostering, you have to remember you aren’t their savior.  Jesus is.  He is only using us temporarily.  There was a much bigger team caring for this little girl.  We were honored to be “picked on the team.”

3. It was tough for my 5 year old. My oldest son is really sensitive.  He was in tears as we sent her off.  I held him a lot that day, and assured him that God loved this little girl far more than we did.  Our other kids have asked about her since she left, but each time it has been a good opportunity to teach them about God and His love for His children.

4. Our situation was a great one. As I have been involved in this foster system for almost a year now, I’ve heard many horror stories of family scenarios.  Our little girl came from a really bad background.  But we provided a loving transition for her.  Now her new family is a great, Godly family as well.  I fully realize that we will encounter other situations that won’t be so “clean.”

5. Guard your hearts. Don’t insulate them. This is what sticks out to me the most in all this.  Scripture reminds us to guard our hearts.  I think we too often confuse this with insulating them.  Yes, it hurt saying bye to her, but it was well worth it.  Our family is different because of her.  If we never step out in faith, then why should we ever expect to understand His faithfulness?

So there it is.  If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, then maybe you feel like you were part of that journey.  I hope you are different as well, because of it.


  1. Chelsea Williams February 9, 2011 at 10:52 am #

    Kevin, this is a great post. I really appreciate you sharing the full story with us. You’re right- I do kind of feel like I got to be part of the journey with you! I am so thankful for that. Being young and single, fostering and adoption are on my heart always, even if not tangible options right now. I do want to learn all I can though, and your personal testimony is encouraging and beneficial. Thank you!

    • Kevin East February 9, 2011 at 12:29 pm #

      Thanks Chelsea. You will be such an incredible mom one day. I appreciate the example you are to my kids right now.

  2. Donna February 9, 2011 at 8:28 pm #

    I love your story. My aunt was a foster mom for years. We loved all of their foster kids. It is a wonderful thing you are doing. I have to ask you about Pine Cove my daughter went there every year. Is this the same summer camp? She had the most fun every year.

  3. Robbie Jones February 10, 2011 at 2:40 pm #

    Thanks for sharing, Kevin. I think our expectation has a lot to do with how attached we feel to our foster children. In some ways, it’s like being a camp counselor. You have this child in your care and you are totally responsible for their health and safety and you do everything you can to make them feel loved and help them grow. But at the same time, you know that your time with them is limited so you don’t develop the same feelings you have for your natural-born children. If, however, you have reason to believe that you may get to adopt the child and you start to think of them as your child and then have to give them up, the parting is much more painful. At least that has been our experience.

    I’m glad you addressed this issue with a post. Fear of the pain of letting go is probably the most common reason people give us for why they “couldn’t be a foster parent.” I think your post will help to calm those fears.

  4. jane park March 19, 2011 at 6:14 am #

    thanks for sharing this Kevin. we foster here in the United Kingdom and we said goodbye to our little 3 ry old foster daughter. We had fostered her since she was 10 months old, and she left us 2 weeks ago It was one of the hardest things that we have ever had to do. We felt like we were in grief for a good few days, but as you say we hold onto all the things that we did for this little one. She had come from horrific domestic violence and just blossomed with us and our 2 children.
    We know that there will be another child that needs the care and support from us, and that is what keeps us going and helps us to say goodbye

    • Kevin East March 21, 2011 at 2:48 pm #

      Thanks for sharing, Jane. You said it much better than I did.