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The Globe and Mail

To my foster son: Please know that I will always love you

EMILY FLAKE/The Globe and Mail

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Dear S.,

I have been writing this letter in my head for almost 14 months, and it's time to put it on paper because within the next couple of weeks you will be leaving us to go and live with your forever family. I don't know if I will ever see you again to tell you these things.

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Someday, I'm sure you will ask your mom and dad about your birth parents. But I don't know if it will ever occur to you to ask them whom you lived with before you came to live with them.

I have been choosing pictures lately for your Life Book, and I've picked a few that have me in them, holding you. I have to admit that I want you to notice me in those pictures, and ask who I am.

"Is that my real mom?" I imagine you asking. "No," they'll say. "That was your foster mom."

Foster homes are sometimes in the news in a bad way. You hear about kids being "shuffled from foster home to foster home," and you might wonder whether that happened to you, since you won't be able to remember it.

Even in the "good-news" stories, you hear about people who have fostered hundreds of children over decades. Sometimes you might wonder whether they had time to love and care for them all, or if their homes were like revolving doors, the children interchangeable like the shoes and backpacks that get handed down from kid to kid.

I wanted to tell you how it was. My husband – we called him your uncle – and I had been foster parents for less than a year when you came to us. You were our second placement, and our first baby.

They called me on a Wednesday and said, "We have an infant born yesterday, and he is being discharged from the hospital tomorrow." They told me how much you weighed and that you were healthy.

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They asked, "Does that sound okay?" and I said, "Sure," and ran around the rest of the day, excitedly telling family and friends and running out to the grocery store to buy formula and a sleeper that would fit.

I picked up bottles and clothes from one friend, and another friend dropped off diapers and other stuff she knew I would need. I was so excited that I would have a baby to hold and love, to feed and take care of.

You came the next day. A social worker brought you from the hospital. You were wearing a yellow sleeper and a hand-knitted hat. You were sound asleep in the car seat, a tiny bundle of brand-new person.

Your worker and I had lots to talk about, and eventually you woke up and started crying a bit. I picked you up and you stopped, so I kept holding you in my arms.

Before your worker left, she stressed how important it was for you to attach to me, so that you could transfer that attachment to another mother later on.

I looked down at you and said, "I think we were attached the minute I picked him up." I decided that I would be your Auntie Kay, because someone else some day would be your mom, and I didn't want to take her title.

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I hope the Life Book tells the story of the 14 months you were with us better than I could in a letter. We took you everywhere, not just the park and the library, but to parties, concerts and restaurants. You met the entire extended family, because we had you for more than a whole calendar year, and got to go to every family celebration.

There was a summer weekend at Uncle's mom's trailer, and Christmas at my parents' place. Everybody thought you were just the cutest thing, and wanted to hold you.

We loved you just as if you were our own baby, and you didn't spend a single night away from us until you had your first overnight with your adoptive family.

My son is 15, and I do remember what it was like when he was born and when he was a baby. If I ever had doubts whether someone could love an adopted child or a stepchild in the same way they loved one who was biologically theirs, you cleared them away in a hurry.

You brought so much joy and life into our house. Fostering is incredibly difficult, and we aren't likely to do it for long, so you will probably remain the one and only baby we foster – the cute little guy whose picture will be on my piano, frozen in time, forever six months old.

If I can convince you of one thing through this little piece of writing, please know that you were loved. You were loved so much, every day, from when you were only 35 hours old.

All those days you can't remember, and might worry about, you were held, cuddled and cared for.

My son loved you and called you his "cute little baby fo-bro." Uncle might not say it out loud, but I know he loved you too. Most of all, I loved you.

I don't know how many years will have passed before you read this, but rest assured that if I am living, I love you still.

Auntie Kay

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