The Importance of Keeping Foster Siblings Together in VA
Help Foster Children Keep Their Sibling Bonds
When children in the United States are placed in foster care, one of the most important things to do is to keep sibling groups together. Separating a sibling group can cause much more harm to a child who is already dealing with change and trauma.
When a biological parent is unable to care for their children, the children are placed into foster care. Usually, this means the children suffered some abuse or neglect at the hands of their biological parents. The sibling groups typically share these experiences with each other because they come from the same home.
What happens when sibling groups are separated?
For one, these youth have gone through the traumatic experience of coming into foster care and adoption. These siblings often want and need to lean on each other for support during this difficult time. Their sibling might be the only person in the world that they trust at that moment.
If that safe sibling relationship is ripped away from them, it will add to the pain and anxiety that they are already feeling. Some of themselves will be taken away from them after their parents and home were already taken away.
Turning a child's world upside down can make them scared, angry, and confused. It would be expected for them to feel as if they don't have a voice in this world. All of these negative emotions will lead to the following:
- increased behavioral problems
- poor mental health
- decreased performance in school
- increased risk for unlawful behavior
- physical health issues
These risks can be minimized if the youth in foster care can stay with their siblings.
When adopted siblings move into their adoptive home or foster children move into their foster home, it will be a completely new and uncomfortable environment. Taking that first step with a sibling can lower anxiety levels and increase their chances of acclimating.
Children living with their siblings is essential for their growth and development. They provide each other with emotional support, companionship, and comfort in times of change. They will be able to use each other to adapt to their new home and family. They will also remain important figures throughout their lives.
Why do some sibling groups get separated?
It's unfortunate, but the reality is that siblings are separated often. Many sibling groups get separated upon entry into the foster care system for different reasons.
Some sibling groups are very large or have age gaps. Some children may also need more care and support than their brothers or sisters, possibly due to a medical condition. These factors make it difficult to find a loving and open foster family to care for the sibling groups.
It's also possible for siblings to enter foster care at different times, live apart from one another, or have different last names. These things could lead to undeveloped or unclear sibling connections.
What can I do to help the children?
As adoptive parents, you can help by adopting a sibling group. If you truly believe in keeping adopted children together, when the time comes, and you receive the call for a sibling group, don't shy away from taking them on. Embrace them together as a package deal, and watch the fruits of your labor and kindness manifest in ways never imagined.
As foster parents, you have such a massive impact on these kids. If your foster child has a sibling they were split up from, nurture that bond by asking and talking about their siblings.
Ask them about things they would do together and their favorite traits about them. If possible, allow them to see their siblings and involve them in special occasions like birthdays, graduations, etc.
Work with your case management team and other stakeholders to make efforts to set up sibling visits. Do what you can to keep that sibling bond- it will not only help them, but it will also help you and your whole family. It also lets them know that you care about how they feel.
In thinking about the importance of keeping siblings together, I'd like you to remember these things. It's not enough that these children get uprooted from their families; they're also becoming detached from their community, culture, and identity. So, allowing them to see their brothers and sisters and have that sibling bond will positively impact their child welfare and the rest of their lives.
My name is Vincent Ellis White, and I am a Family Services Specialist at Extra Special Parents (ESP), a licensed foster Child Placing Agency (CPA) in Virginia. In my ESP role, I train potential foster parents and guide them as they navigate the road to certification to become licensed foster parents. Another integral part of my responsibility is placing foster children into our certified families' homes.