Mom Rachel Hillestad has been fostering children for seven years. Last year, she penned a post after her foster son left behind a toothbrush in her car. She wrote that the pain of separation was hers to bear after the child left her care.
This week, she shared in a new post that she’s decided to stop fostering children. The pain from her last foster child was too much to bear.
She wrote on Facebook that she dropped off her recent foster child, a three-month-old baby boy, with a new foster parent on October 13.
For weeks she had dreamt of adopting the baby and adding him to her family of five. But it soon became apparent that he was not going to be available for adoption.
Days after he left the house, Rachel broke down while cleaning the bathroom. She told herself that she’d “never again” foster another child. Her family took steps to end the foster care license.
Then, on October 20, she came across the boy’s Halloween costume and her eyes suddenly filled with tears:
She wrote on Facebook:
I came across his Halloween costume this afternoon. I held it and imagined him in it. I will give it to his new foster mom, and maybe he’ll wear it. I wept, though, sitting on the dusty, sun-dappled floor of his old room. I wept and I let all of that sorrow roll out of me like deep ocean waves finally finding the release of the sand.
As she stood holding the Halloween costume, she realized she had made the right decision to stop fostering children. One word came to mind:
I wept, and I’m ok. He’s ok. My heart said “Enough.” I had to listen.
In an interview with Dearly, Rachel said that it’s painful for her to “lose” her foster children:
“It hurts so, so much when you are mom to these kids and suddenly you are not. That said, I’d do 98 percent of all of those moments again. One thing I wish people would realize is that I am nothing special. I’m not an angel, and I don’t have a special gift. I was just willing to be “mom” to a kid who had nothing. Those commercials are so true: you don’t need to be perfect to be the perfect parent for a child who has no one. Kids are sleeping overnight in social workers’ offices. We are one of the most prosperous nations in the world, so there’s no excuse for that.”
She said that her experience fostering children has “blessed [her] beyond measure.” But now she wants the opportunity to spend time on her children and her marriage.
According to a recent report published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), an estimated 427,910 children were in foster care in 2015. Nearly half of them were in non-relative foster care homes.
Rachel wants to relaunch her website to become a “place of support for foster parents” and for families interested in supporting foster children. Rachel isn’t sure how the site will look just yet, but she knows there’s a big need to show support for people who give their hearts and homes to foster children.