Our foster care expert shares why it's important to keep siblings together in the foster care system.
From birth throughout adulthood, our siblings are some of our most important relationships. Sure, brothers and sisters can drive us crazy, and sibling rivalry can be real. But for the most part, our siblings are our first friends. Our support system. Our sense of security in times of uncertainty.
For youth experiencing foster care, the bonds with siblings become even more important. When there is abuse or neglect in a home, it is siblings who often protect, comfort and care for each other.
The sad reality is that when foster care is needed, it is often challenging for us in the child welfare space to place siblings all together. Sometimes, factors outside of anyone’s control play a factor – such as the size of a sibling group, licensure of foster homes, blended families and different kinship care options, and different care needs of siblings.
But whenever possible, keeping sibling groups together while youth experience foster care can play a huge role in helping ensure they overcome trauma and thrive, not to mention preventing them from experiencing additional trauma as a result of being separated from their siblings. If you are considering becoming a foster parent, here are three reasons why you should open your heart to fostering sibling groups:
- Emotional health and support. Imagine first experiencing abuse or neglect, and then being removed from the only home you have ever known. Now, imagine having to do it as a child, alone. This is the heartbreaking reality for youth experiencing foster care. The separation of siblings can lead to additional, unnecessary trauma – an unfair burden to youth who have already experienced so much through no fault of their own. Being able to stay with siblings can support emotional health by knowing they have a familiar support with them.
- A feeling of family. One of the most important goals of fostering is providing a safe, loving home environment for however long youth are in our care. An important part of this is the environment of being in a family. As the adjustment to a new family can take some time for youth experiencing foster care, having siblings there helps provide a sense of stability and familiarity. Additionally, siblings can help each other speak up for their needs, routines and other ways to provide normalcy in their foster home.
- Long-term togetherness. Children can experience foster care for a short period of time, or even months or years. Keeping sibling groups together helps ensure they will have that sense of stability regardless of how long they are in foster care. And if it is determined that the youth cannot be safely reunited with their birth family, having siblings together while they experience foster care can help them ultimately be adopted together.
For more information about ways to give, becoming a foster parent or supporting youth experiencing foster care and vulnerable families, visit www.SAFY.org. Together, we can help keep families together and ensure youth experiencing foster care overcome trauma, thrive and reach their highest potential.
Specialized Alternatives for Families and Youth (SAFY) is a child and family nonprofit preserving families and securing futures services that help families and children heal, have hope, and thrive through a model of care that includes therapeutic foster care, adoption, family preservation, behavioral health and supports for older youth. Learn more at www.SAFY.org.
By Charisse Penn, SAFY Columbus Foster Parent Recruiter and Toneia Williams, SAFY Cincinnati Foster Parent Recruiter