Adopting Siblings from Foster Care

Adopting siblings from foster care is a super fabulous option for families looking for lots of love and fun.  Keeping brothers and sisters together is critical, but sometimes social workers have concerns.  As potential adoptive parents, you might have concerns, too.  Be armed with the facts about what’s really good for children and help advocate for siblings staying together.

AdoptUSKids has a wonderful hand-out for social workers that busts myths that often lead to brothers and sisters being separated from each other.  It’s really eye-opening.  Here’s what it says:

1. Myth: When a child is acting in the parental role, he/she should be separated from younger siblings to give him/her a chance to “be a child” and/or reduce interference with the new adult parent.

Reality: Separating the older child is detrimental to both that child and the younger children. The younger children must face life in unfamiliar circumstances without the support of the older child, and the older child is often left feeling responsible for the younger siblings even when they are not placed together. Adoptive families who are prepared to deal with this dynamic can help these siblings develop appropriate roles.

2. Myth: Brothers and sisters should be separated to prevent sibling rivalry especially when there is extreme conflict.

Reality: Separating siblings teaches them to walk away from conflict and increases the trauma they already feel in being separated from all that is familiar to them. It does not allow the children an opportunity to learn to resolve differences and develop stronger sibling relationships in a healthy, supportive environment.

3. Myth: Siblings should be separated when one sibling is abusing the other.

Reality: It is important to distinguish between true abuse and all other forms of sibling hostility while considering measures other than separation that can protect the child who is being abused. Removing a child from his/her sibling does not guarantee that the child will not be abused in another setting. Having adoptive parents who are aware of the abuse and who put in place safety plans to address it is an option to keep siblings together.

4. Myth: A child with special needs should be placed separately from sibs in order to receive more focused attention.

Reality: An adoptive family who is prepared to meet the special needs of a child as well as that child’s siblings may offer the best opportunity for the child to receive the attention he/she needs.

A child placed with his/her siblings may actually receive more personalized attention than a child placed into a family where there are other children with similar special needs requiring increased attention and resources.

5. Myth: Sibling relationships should only be considered viable when the children have grown up together or have the same biological parents.

Reality: Children who experience life in the child welfare system often form a variety of “sibling like” relationships with non-related brothers and sisters they have lived with both in their biological families and in foster care. Professionals placing children need to take into consideration the child’s definition of who is and is not a sibling before making adoption placement decisions.

6. Myth: Families willing to consider adopting a sibling group need to be willing to adopt groups that on average include four or more children.

Reality: The majority of waiting children with siblings on the AdoptUSKids website are in sibling groups of two (58%) or three siblings (24%) while fewer are in sibling groups of four to six siblings (18%). (McRoy 2010)

7. Myth: There are insufficient numbers of homes that have the willingness or capacity to parent large sibling groups.

Reality: Most waiting families registered on AdoptUSKids (83%) are willing to adopt more than one child. (McRoy 2010) Some adoptive families express the desire to adopt “ready made” families of sibling groups. Other larger families are willing to adopt larger sibling groups. Policies and procedures that provide exceptions and incentives for families who adopt siblings groups are essential.

8. Myth: Potential adoptive families are less likely to express interest in children who are featured in recruitment efforts as members of sibling groups.

Reality: Recruitment efforts specifically designed for sibling groups that include: resource families who have raised siblings to recruit and talk to potential families; the use of media to publicize the need for families willing to adopt these groups; and recruitment pictures of the children taken as a group, have proven most effective in placing brothers and sisters together.

9. Myth: Families who adopt sibling groups need to be wary of the brothers and sisters joining together to cause problems in the adoptive family.

Reality: Research indicates that siblings placed together benefit from the sibling bond in ways that do not present problems to the parent/child relationship. Older children in the sibling group are thought to provide emotional support to their younger siblings. There is evidence to suggest that siblings who are placed separately in adoption have more anxiety and depression than those who are placed together. (Groza 2003)

10. Myth: There are higher rates of failed adoptions in families who adopt siblings.

Reality: Siblings who are placed separately are more likely to demonstrate greater emotional and behavioral problems. Research indicates that when siblings are placed together, they experience many emotional benefits with less moves and a lower risk for failed placements. (Leathers 2005)

If you would like a pretty version of the hand-out to share, you can download the PDF version of Ten Myths and Realities of Sibling Adoption.

This post is part of Adoption Talk Link Up, where people interested in learning about adoption discuss a new topic every two weeks.  Check it out!

No Bohns About It

Camp for Foster Siblings

The little moments that bond brothers and sisters together are absent when siblings are placed into separate foster families.  Eating breakfast together, walking to school together, reading bedtime stories together… these experiences simply don’t happen.  Instead, brothers and sisters have an hour in a dingy CPS room once a month – if they are lucky.

That’s why I love the idea of Camp To Belong, where siblings separated by foster care can come together for a week to forge fun, loving memories.  They host camps in 10 locations in the U.S. and Australia.  Check out the Washington version of Camp to Belong.

Brothers and Sisters Matter to Foster Kids

Your relationship with your brother or sister can be more influential than any other relationship you’ll ever have in your life.   What?!?  Really?  What about your parents?  What about your husband or wife?

November is National Adoption Month, and this year’s theme is “Promoting and Supporting Sibling Connections.”  So I researched the importance of keeping siblings together.  Here’s what I found.

Longevity.  Most brothers/sisters know each other from birth or a young age, until you die – longer than you’re likely to know anyone else.  Your parents usually pass a twenty years before you do.  Your husband or wife usually don’t meet you until you’ve already lived 20, 30, or 40 years.  With brothers and sisters, you don’t feel so lonely.

Shared Experience.  Your brothers/sisters lived in the same neighborhood, went to the same schools, ate the same food, grew up in the same religion, lived under the same household rules… in short, they experienced a very similar life during the most critical period of your life when you are forming your identity.  They know you on a level that’s hard to match.  You feel as if someone can really “see” you.

Ally in a Cruel World.  If you have suffered from abuse/neglect/trauma in your home, perhaps you were the protector and caregiver for your brothers/sisters, or perhaps they were the ones to protect and care for you.  Either way, you may feel closer to them than you do to your parents, if they are abusive or neglectful.  If you couldn’t tell outsiders about the abuse/neglect/trauma, your brothers/sisters were in on the secret and could be trusted.  They shared the most difficult moments in your life and, unlike many others, they “get” what it means to have suffered what you went through.  You don’t feel so scared.

Source of Self Esteem.  When you suffer from abuse/neglect/trauma at the hands of your parents, you are likely to feel worthless.  Your parents may even have said you are worthless.  Your brothers/sisters love you and may have been the only immediate family that told you that you are wanted, a good person.  When you’re with them, you feel valuable and deserving of love.

So should we keep brothers and sisters together when they are in foster care?  YES!!  They won’t feel so lonely.  They will feel as if someone can really “see” them, rather than feeling invisible.  They won’t feel so scared.  When brothers and sisters are together, they will feel valuable and deserving of love.

Isn’t this what we want for our foster kids?