Attachment: That dreaded term with fostering and adoption


But won't you get attached?

That is always the second question I am asked when people hear that my husband and I are fostering.  (The first is about what our children are called, since they both came to us with unusual names).

Yes, yes we will.  We already have.

But what will you do if they go back?

We will be heartbroken.

How can you do it then?

With this last question, most people do not expect an answer.  I have thought about it a lot, though, and I have one, even if it is not the most satisfying.  

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Relationship is about heartbreak and loss.  Think about it: whether a relationship is formed by biological bond or intentional choice, it will someday come to an end, whether by breakup or death.  We will one day be separated from all those whom we love.  We make choices all the time that involve that risk: we board an airplane or drive our car.  We sign up for the military.  We ignore the red flags in a relationship because we so love the other person.  We open ourselves up to the possibility of loss.

I do not yet know how our family will handle the loss of our littlest one, if it comes to that.  His foster case may end in adoption or reunification with his mom; we don't know.  When we fostered our daughter, we adopted her, so no, we didn't lose her.  And yet there was still loss: loss for her birth parents, loss for her, since she will never know what it is like to grow up with her biological parents, loss for Dan and me, because we never knew her for her first four years.  I know however our little boy's case ends, there will be celebration and grief, and we must have faith that he ends up exactly where he needs to be.

For now, we smell his hair and wipe the boogers out of his nose and smile way too excitedly every time he reaches a new milestone.  We keep on holding him as he coughs in our faces as he fights a cold, we watch our daughter develop a special bond with her younger brother, and we give thanks for the gift of his life every night.

And we wait.  And the attachment intensifies.

Emily Rowell Brown