In the days before our first foster daughter—the one who made me a mom—left to be reunited with an extended family member, I had my husband help me paint her hand pink and press it onto white card stock. I didn’t have a plan for that handprint yet but I knew I needed something more than the 1000s of photos I took to remember her—something I could trace my fingertips across when I was aching from missing her and wondering how she was doing. I also saved the top of the artificial hot pink daisy she had been playing with the night she was dropped off at our home by CPS, and a small plastic hair clip.
Two years later, we had finalized the adoption of our second placement and were preparing to say goodbye to our third placement. Before he left I painted his hand blue and stamped it onto card stock, too. During our self-imposed three month break after his departure, I decided it was time to do something in our home to display the hand prints and honor each of our children. I made a plan and started a gallery in our hallway. Each child would have an 8×10 framed photo, their initial, and a 6×6 shadow box of keepsakes, such as the hand prints (or footprints for the tiny babies), the daisy and the hair clip. Our wall now has six precious photos, six letters and six boxes full of memories.
Around the same time as the gallery wall, I also made a necklace that I could add onto with each additional child I had the honor of mothering. The A for my forever daughter Alianna is set apart from the others. L, T, A, M, N. Each one holds a special place in my heart and always will. (Since I’m frequently asked—the heart charm and jump rings are from Michaels, the letters are from Etsy and the chain is one I had on hand.)
I asked some of the other Dropping Anchors crew to share how they honor their previous foster children.
Alisha has a large brass family tree in her foyer with photos of each of their special children. She also has photo ornaments on their Christmas tree and photos of the children around her house. Her husband has a special tattoo on his chest with a sunset. Each time a child leaves, he adds another bird flying over the sunset. Another tattoo has two birds on tree branches, representing him and Alisha. When their daughters’ adoptions are finalized, he’ll add two more birds perched in the tree.
Alisha has this special tattoo to remember their first son. She says, “His family was from Honduras and spoke Spanish. I have the heart on their hometown and ‘Foster Love’ written in Spanish.”
She has a special necklace, too: “I also have an origami owl necklace with an anchor (for us), a sparrow (for those that fly back home), and their birthstones (many of my kids share same birthstones) .”
Kelli has this beautiful tree painting in her home. She explains, “Each time a child comes into our home we place his or her fingerprint onto our family tree. When we were finishing up our license, I wanted a way to remember each child who would come to our home. Whether they were here less than 24 hours or stayed forever, they are family. I hung this tree in between our children’s bedrooms. Not a day goes by that I don’t look at it and remember how lucky we are to have played a part in each of those seven children’s story.”
Leslie C. has Christmas ornaments with photos of each of the babies they’ve said goodbye to, in a lovely display above their dining room table.
Stacie has photo ornaments for their past foster kids. She and her husband have a gallery wall in their home, too. It includes photos, hoop art, favorite verses, and quotes.
Leslie P. has a quilt with each child’s name as well as little wooden peg figurines on her mantel.
Jamie keeps a photo album for each child. While visiting another foster home, Lisa saw a huge framed canvas that covered half of a wall and included a handprint or footprint from each child that had come through the home. Several of the other DA crew also use photo Christmas ornaments as a way to honor each child who has been part of their families.
If you’re a foster parent, what do you do to remember your children that have moved on?
Martina Ahlbrandt was a foster mama from 2011-2015. In addition to being a mom, she’s a graphic designer, wife to a professional musician and realtor, a mid-century modern design enthusiast, and a follower of Jesus Christ. She and her husband Jason were inspired to become foster parents (instead of or before biological children) in order to help kids in their community whether short-term, long-term or forever; and with the hopes to adopt eventually. She has had six placements and had the honor of adopting Alianna in 2012. Alianna was born in 2011, their biological son Isaiah was born in 2015 and their biological daughter Josephine was born in 2016. She still has a heart for foster care and is a mentor through their county DCS. She blogs at myMCMlife.com.