Friday, October 12, 2012

Knowing When To Let Go: When Giving Up is Giving a New Chance

By John and Diane.
The hardest thing for me to face is coming to the truth that I can’t help a child anymore.
I, of course, think to myself that I have failed as a parent, that I have failed my foster child, that there was something I could have done differently or something I didn’t do at all. I go through all this in my mind and I beat myself up over it.   

When foster kids stop responding, sometimes a change helps.
I know many of you know how it feels to think that you can’t handle it anymore and have cried over having a child leave. It is a heartbreaking and difficult decision, and one that many foster parents and even biological parents of troubled kids have to face at one time or another.
Although, with God’s help, I have had many successes with very tough kids, you may wonder, what it takes for me to give up on helping a child? These are the things I consider.

1.   I was an EMT and one of the things we always had to remember was that you have to take care of yourself first.   If you get hurt you can’t help anyone else and you become part of the problem.  Was I taking care of myself? Or was I stressed out and burned out? 

2.  The safety of the child and the others who may be around the child. Is everyone still safe?

3.  Do you have to put your hands on the child to keep him and the others in the house safe? How hard is it to do if you do have to?  Some times you may just have to hold a child for him to calm down or to protect him from hurting himself or others.  (NOTE: if you have to do this, let the case workers know this is something you are doing and get training on how to do this or you may find yourself talking to an officer for child abuse.)  A hands-off approach is the best way to handle issues with kids, but I have to take how difficult this is into account when determining if I can keep a child. Can I still control the child if he has an outburst?

4.   Does the child’s age/size/weight create a safety issue for yourself and the other children?  Especially important if the child has uncontrolled violent behavior, if the child is getting older, and stronger, it may simply not be safe anymore for me to work with him in a family-home environment.  Is the child getting too big and is he too dangerous now for me to handle?

5.   Am I helping the child anymore or have I done as much as I can? This is a hard one to answer.  We always think that we could do more. Listen to the others in your support group (teachers, counselors, doctors, caseworkers, therapists,) they may see something you can’t or wont.  Am I still making a difference?

6.   Is the child holding the other kids back either emotionally, mentally or socially?  Is he modeling inappropriate behavior for the younger, impressionable foster kids? For example, does he disrespect the authority figures in the house, is he breaking house rules and encouraging the others to break rules. Is the child’s behavior negatively affecting the other foster kids progress?

7.   How long has the child been with me? Have the behaviors gotten better, worse or have they hit a plateau Have I given the child enough time and chances to have changed?

8.   I pray and ask god to forgive me for not being able to help the child for I am too weak to handle it. Somehow he always lets me know he understands and shows me the way to help the child even if I am not the one doing it. Then I know it is time for me to let go and let someone else help now.

Although for most, the safety concerns are enough reasons, and good reasons, to consider seeking new placement for a foster child, since my home has some unique safety measures in place, such as cameras for supervision, I needed all 8 reasons for me to feel justified and at peace with the decision to let a child go.

This was a decision I had to make recently with a foster child who I had for many years. I will continue to share this experience with all of you in following posts as we discuss all the steps involved with the process of letting a child go.

Image:  License



  1. I just wanted to stop by and again thank you for this particular post. I am excited for the rest of this series!

    1. Thanks Gabriela, Its such a difficult topic, and one that we all have to face it seems at some time or another.

  2. It is a difficult topic. And it is always sad to hear that one has to give up on someone. I know the feeling. It gives you that nagging sensation that you could have done better, that there should’ve been something more you could have done. But you are right, there are times that we still need to see the bigger picture, and after all the things we have said and done, it is not us that would change the person. They have to decide on that by themselves.

    Georgine Roe

    1. Thanks Georgine, for your kind words. I will be posting a more personal look at the situation on Friday, that gives more background on the exact situation that brought John to the decision, and what has happened since then. He definitely brought that boy farther than anyone could have, with God's help, I know he would say, and really saved the child in many ways. Hopefully some of what John taught him sunk in and has penetrated all his other issues and problems and gave him a foundation to work from when he wants to.