WHY I WRITE
Advocating for sending regular updates to your child’s foster family
I’ve had several people ask me over time why I send updates to our children’s foster families, particularly the first foster families. I’ve heard from some people that they don’t write because their child’s foster family doesn’t write back. In the case of a child who had multiple placements, I’ve had people tell me that they don’t write because the first foster family “only” cared for their child for a short period of time. While I understand these lines of thinking, I’d like to share with you our story.
About six or eight months after we returned home from picking up my youngest child, I decided to write to both of her foster families. I’d already sent a few letters to my daughter’s 2nd foster family, the family we met when we traveled to Seoul to meet her and pick her up. I’d written to her because, having met her, I felt connected to her and to her family. When I thought about my child’s foster mother, she is whom I thought of. As time passed, however, I began to get an overwhelming sense that I needed to write to her first foster family as well. I began to wonder if my daughter’s first foster family knew that she’d found a family and been adopted? Did they think of her? My daughter was born with a serious and potentially life-threatening medical concern; did they worry and wonder how she was doing?
I sat down and penned a letter. I told them how my daughter was doing. I told her how much we loved and adored our child and how thankful we were for the early care she had been given in their home. I talked about the milestones my daughter had achieved…simple things like walking, eating, and her first words. I talked about the things she liked to do, everything from her favorite activities to her favorite foods. I gave them a medical update, sharing with them that she’d had successful surgery to correct her medical concern and was expected to live a long and healthy life. I sent the letter off to her adoption agency in Korea and enclosed a number of my favorite photos.
To be honest, I wrote with the expectation that I likely would not hear back, but I knew in my heart the letter needed to be sent anyway. Not long after sending the letter, I received a letter back. The letter expressed the foster family’s profound gratitude for the photos and the update. You see, they had taken care of many children over time, but they had never met any of the adoptive families and this was the first time anyone had ever taken the time to write to them, to send an update, and to thank them. They said that though they had not taken care of her for long, just a few months, they were worried sick about her when she left due to her medical needs. As with all the children they’d cared for, they wondered what had become of her. They had loved her deeply and had thought of her often.
As I read the letter, I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes. That single letter, all one page of it, had meant so much to this family. It hurt my heart to think that we were the first to write and that they had worried so. I was profoundly grateful that I had been able to put their mind to ease. I thanked God every day that I had written to them.
Just over a year has passed since we came home with my daughter. I recently wrote to each of my daughter’s foster mothers again, sending an update and a photo book from my daughter’s first year and a half of life, including scanned copies of photos they’d sent home with her. This time I received responses back from each foster mother. One foster mother sent a treasured gift to us, a hand-sketched picture of my daughter that her foster sister had made. We subsequently received a photo from our adoption agency of her with the items we sent; this was the first photo we’d ever seen of her. The other foster mother wrote to let me know that she had recently had to say goodbye to a baby that had been in her care for over a year. She talked of how empty she’d felt after saying goodbye to this treasured baby and how the letter and photo book were such an encouragement; they made her want to get back to fostering children again.
Yet again I could feel tears welling up. One can never predict the impact an update will have on a foster mother. A simple letter and a few photos may bring the joy, peace and comfort to a woman and family who loved and cared for your child. It may set their mind at ease. Once again I was so thankful that I’d written.
I recognize that our situation is not the norm and know that not every foster family writes back. Many foster families simply have had so many foster children that corresponding with all of them would be logistically impossible. I also understand how hard it can be to write to someone you don’t know and who hasn’t written back as one of my son’s foster families has not written back to us. Though it is harder to write under those conditions, I write anyway and will continue to send updates if only because I believe it is the right thing to do. I can’t help but think how many foster families worry and wonder what happened to the precious children they cared for.
I’d encourage each of you to remember your children’s foster families, to keep them in your prayers, and to send them periodic updates if your agency permits you to.