We have nothing but praises for the foster family who looked after our son. In fact, the passion and dedication they put into their role of carers inspired us to take up fostering ourselves. However, not every adoptive family holds their children’s foster carers in such high regard.

Some families can’t wait to distance themselves (and their children) from the previous carers, and I can understand why. It’s hard enough to create a bond between a child and a parent where there is none, even without the interference of the old foster family. But I’m not sure the foster family is the enemy in this strange love triangle.

As a newly adoptive family, you want to have your go, and God knows you’ve waited long enough for it. Then, why should you make concessions for the foster family? After all, they knew the terms of the deal from the start. Possibly these terms are the very reason why you would never seriously consider fostering yourself, because it’d be too heartbreaking for you to let go of a child you care so much for.

The foster carers I spoke with feel exactly the same way you do, but they’ve decided to take on fostering despite of it. Unfortunately, having taken that decision doesn’t spare them the pain of losing a child they still love and have loved for some time. It’s true, they always knew the terms of the deal, but they also knew that love and loss are part of the equation, and that there cannot be any parenting without love. Their love, at some time, meant the world for your child.

During our adoption training, we were invited to play all sort of silly group games. But one of these games resonated for me, and I’m surprised I haven’t heard more often of it. It’s called The Water Bucket Exercise.

The Water Bucket Exercise is an activity meant to help children understand time and make sense of their own identity, but I believe it could also help parents. To perform the exercise, you needs a big bucket, like a large laundry bucket, a jug, and a tap.

The exercise is initially lead by the parent, who starts retracing the first few years of the child’s life. Details are not important here, just the highlights. The child might have spent two or three years with his birth family, for example, so for each year the parent fills a jug of water and pour it into the bucket. Once removed from his birth family, he might have stayed with an emergency foster family for a few weeks, and maybe he still has memories of them. For them, the parent fills only the bottom of the jug, and pour the content in the bucket. Then it’s the turn of the foster family with which the child has spent several years. Those years take as many jugfuls of water, which are again poured into the bucket. The exercise continues until we get to the present time. At that point, the carer, pointing to the water in the bucket, ask the child, “Can you tell me which part is which?”.

Hard to tell, isn’t it? The exercise simply illustrates one of the realities of adoption: the person your child is today, or the child you are about to adopt, is the product of all the people who have been in some way important in his whole life. You, as his adoptive parent, are the lucky one. You are the one who will be there to see the bucket filled to the brim, but the time spent with others will always be in there too. Those years have value, and they should not be negated.

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  1. Rich Flukes 29th December 2016 Reply
    • Diego Boccaleone 29th December 2016 Reply
  2. Anna 5th January 2017 Reply
    • Diego Boccaleone 5th January 2017 Reply

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