When I took this position I knew it was going to be hard. “How do you care for a child for months, and then watch them leave?” I asked myself. Many people gave advice on how they'd handle a job like this, one where a child becomes attached to you, they call you mommy, you get attached to them, they are your babies. I heard it all “Do something special for yourself after a hard day. They’ll always remember what you did for them. Know that tomorrow there will be another child who needs the love only you can give.” I’ve seen many kids come to Palmetto Place in my six months here. There were kids here when I started who left before I got to know them. There have been kids who came and left so quickly I never even got to introduce myself. But there are a few who have been here since I started, I’ve grown to know them and care for them on a maternal level. These are my babies.
Today, I had to say goodbye to one on my babies. It’s a bitter sweet goodbye for us both. I greet her as she gets home from school, knowing that she hasn’t been told yet. I tell her I’ve got good news, she’s going home. As she looks at me with those big doe eyes and says, “I don’t want to leave my friends at Palmetto Place” I hold back tears. I don’t want her to leave me but I know I have to be strong.
Being placed with a family member is best for her, at the same time, I feel like her family. “If I can’t be there physically to tell her how smart and kind she is, who will?” I think to myself. “How will she know that I love her if she’s not here for me to tell her?” I can feel the tears start to form and know that I’m about to lose it.
So, I squeeze her one last time, extra hard so she knows I mean it. I tell her how special she is and that I’m always with her. Whenever she is missing her friends at Palmetto Place all she needs to do is close her eyes and relive her memories. (Deep down inside that little piece of advice was really for myself.) I watch her walk out the front door, get into the car, and back out of the driveway. I feel a little hand grab mine, I’m pulled back to reality as a 6-year-old boy says, “I’ll miss her too.” I’m reminded that I’m still needed here, still needed by him, and that in my time at this job I will have more babies than I ever thought I could.
Written by Grace Bennett Project Coordinator