One child less in our house as of Saturday.
The child's Local Authority social worker arrived at 10.00am Saturday morning to take the child home. They went for a Saturday because the mum has started some kind of a Monday to Friday job and wanted to be at home all day for the big day.
Our Blue Sky social worker arrived at 9.30am and stayed for an hour after the child had gone just to make sure things went smoothly and we were okay. God, you drink a lot of tea in fostering.
In fostering if you're with an agency like we are with Blue Sky you have your own agency social worker whose job is to concentrate on you the carer, and help you keep on track with everything. The local authority social worker is free to concentrate on the child.
I think it's the biggest of many plusses for being with an agency.
I'm not saying anything against fostering with your local authority, just that I'm not sure if their carers get the same level of backup.
The Blue Sky social worker wanted to make sure we were okay with what is actually a big transisition in our house;
A vulnerable little child who has lived under our roof for the best part of a year, been part of our family, shared our Christmas, celebrated our birthdays, felt our pain with a declining elderly relative and now is no more.
A frightened, lonely child who let us into their life; their hopes and fears, their nightmares, their moments of wonder, their fleeting release from pain and heartache when little things transport them - a butterfly in the garden or when dad poured chip oil in his tea because I used the milk jug to save the stuff after I started a chip pan but the call went out for spag boll.
To find the chip oil incident as funny as the child did, to grasp all the comedy; the child was family.
Shall I tell you the worst bit, and I'm going to bare my soul here?
It's not the loss, it's not the agonising about whether to leave their bedroom door half open or shut, or wide open, which ravaged us when our eldest went off to Uni.
The worst bit is the guilt you feel because when you close the front door as they are driven away a piece of you feels good.
I don't mean good because you've done a great job, or because they are going home and that's the name of the game.
A piece of you feels good for selfish reasons dammit.
You've got your family home back to being more like the family home you planned when you were young and innocent.
You are relieved of a responsibility. If the child goes in the wrong direction after leaving you you'll be sad, but you weren't there to do anything about it, so you can't beat yourself up and no-one else is going to ask if you got it right.
Fostering brings changes to your home you have to be prepared to enjoy, and it carries a responsibility which is always in your mind; looking after comeone else's child.
The child in question was pumped up about going home, and that's what mattered most on the day. This evening, laying one less place at the table for tea, I had a mixed bag of feelings.
Tomorrow, as Scarlet O'Hara says at the end of Gone With The Wind, is another day.
The phone might ring, I'll grab it.
It might be the magic words;
"Would you consider taking a child who..."