As an adoptive/foster parent, I live in a world that is unlike most. All around there are well meaning individuals, best practices, protocol, and lingo.
Closure is a big word in foster care and adoption. It’s something that is supposed to be helpful and healing.
Two summers ago, my teenage foster child aged out of the system. Everything was arranged for her to move on to a lovely set up in a city that could better meet her needs. Sabrina* had been with me for five years. Raine and Athena hadn’t known life in our home without her. So as the move drew close, I sought out a therapist for Raine to see. Then, when Sabrina left, Raine’s anxiety level lessened dramatically. We still went to see the therapist. It was a grueling 50 minutes repeated three times. Raine, the most talkative child you will ever meet, didn’t speak at all during the sessions. The well intentioned therapist followed her around the room. As Raine bounced from the sand box to craft table, the lady was stressed beyond belief. She was deeply worried about the sand escaping from the table and too much glue being put on papers. It was very uncomfortable, made even more so by the eery silence.
Since our home life was becoming quite pleasant and Raine was not exhibiting any instability in Sabrina’s absence, I decided to end the sessions. The therapist responded to my email, insisting that we have a final visit “for closure, since Raine has experienced so many losses in her life.”
The problem with “closure” is that it doesn’t close the gaping wound left by an individual’s exit from your life. It isn’t a cure for the natural grief process. It doesn’t erase the pain.
I asked Raine if she wanted to see the therapist once more to say goodbye. She did not. So we didn’t. It wasn’t as if Raine had formed any attachment. In fact, she was completely detached from the woman which was very uncharacteristic for Raine.
Another opportunity for appropriate closure has passed us by recently. Our young friend, featured in my last post, was at a foster parent seminar I was supposed to go to. She was staying at another foster home within our agency, waiting for CAS to decide where she’d be residing. Being far from her school, the girl was not attending and would be accompanying the foster parent to our training session.
I was told she’d be helping in the children’s class which is where I’d be required to leave Raine for the day. And so, after a bit of thought, I decided not to go. The message I gave to my daughters after our dramatic ordeal, is that I can protect them and will keep them safe. Dropping Raine off to be cared for by someone who tried to harm her does not support that message.
Later when I explained to a case worker why I wasn’t there, she pointed out that I denied Raine the chance for appropriate closure. Yes, I suppose I did. These are the decisions that I make reluctantly, knowing I’m going against the grain of best practice. Social workers are educated and experienced in ways I am not. There must be something to this approach of closure – saying goodbye one last time. But I couldn’t find any benefit to my family or our friend. The context this appropriate closure was offered in made me uncomfortable. So I let the opportunity pass us by.