Each day, children who have experienced abuse and neglect enter the foster care system. The need for loving, compassionate and patient foster parents is evident. But, what might not be so obvious is the need for foster parents who provide for a specific population of children in foster care, such as sibling groups. Research has shown that siblings placed in foster homes together often feel more secure and can help each other adjust to their new family and community. We sat down with foster parent Hannah* to discuss the rewards and complexities that come with fostering sibling groups.
Hannah has worked for Upbring for almost five years, several of which she spent as a caseworker for Foster In Texas. After much thoughtful consideration and prayer, Hannah and her husband decided to begin their foster journey. Not too long after their training was complete, and licensing was approved, they received a call and chose to accept not one child, but two young sisters into their home.
Why is it important to keep siblings together?
There are so many reasons why we should all focus on keeping siblings together. I can’t imagine the trauma of being removed from your home and everyone you know. That alone is a significant event for any child. Beyond that, imagine getting into a car with a stranger and watching your sibling get into a different car. You both drive off, and you have no idea where either of you is headed. The security of knowing where one of your loved ones is has a profound impact when experiencing hard things. My girls have a significant connection. In the beginning, as they were getting to know us, they found comfort in each other. The older sister would watch her little sister fall asleep each night refusing to sleep herself until she knew her sister was safe and sleeping. To this day, after living with us for seven months, if they are ever apart, they constantly ask about each other. They comfort and teach each other daily.
Are there any additional requirements to be approved to foster siblings?
Not at all. Just let your agency or caseworker know you are interested in more than one child and they will make sure your license reflects that.
What if we don’t have the ability to foster a sibling group? What will happen to the other siblings?
It is my understanding that keeping siblings together will always be a top priority for Child Protective Services and foster care placement agencies. If all options are exhausted and that is not possible, then the children might be placed in separate homes. Again, this only happens after all other options have been exhausted. Even after placing them in separate homes, if a home that will accommodate all siblings is later found, then the children could be moved to that home instead.
How can we help siblings stay connected if they are in different foster families?
If a sibling set is separated, it’s not a matter of how you can help but more of a requirement of the state. CPS will likely require sibling visits. Creating positive relationships with the biological family and the other foster families is helpful. Sometimes the use of technology is available depending on the age of the child and circumstances of the case. Facetime, texting and phone calls can be a great aid to maintaining connection.
Will fostering siblings mean extra meetings, appointments and family visits?
Typically, the siblings will share family visits with their bio family. Most of the time CPS can make sure that meetings and appointments required in their services apply to all siblings. When it comes to medical appointments or appointments with schools or teachers, each child will have their own scheduled times, although many doctors will make sure you can do the appointments back to back or even all together at the same time!
What are the rewards and challenges that come with fostering siblings?
They are each individuals and have different needs. They require different parenting methods or redirections. They each have different motivators, personalities and schedules. It’s a challenge to get to know more than one child and learn the things that make them tick. The transition can be stark. Our family went from a family of two to a family of four overnight. There was a season where we were all figuring it out, learning each other, and setting boundaries, those things were hard; but, they were such a blessing too. The rewards of having our girls together are endless. There’s not much I wouldn’t do to preserve their love for each other and the connection they have. Their relationship helps me to understand who they are. When one can’t articulate an emotion, feeling or memory, the other can help. They are also able to comfort and bring each other joy in a way that I’m not sure anyone else could. They feel safer knowing their sibling is also safe. I earn the trust of one child when they watch me with the other. They make each other feel safer, and together they make me a better parent.
Every child is a gift, and you can be a warrior who fights for the dreams of children in your community as a foster family. If foster care is something you’ve been considering, or you’ve experienced firsthand what a difference a supportive, loving home can make in the life of a child in foster care, why not consider saying “yes” to siblings? Your “yes” can help us break the cycle of child abuse. To request more information about how you can begin your foster journey, visit Upbring.org/FosterInfo where you can fill out our Foster Inquiry Form.