Sunday, March 29, 2009

When Foster Care or Adoption Separates Siblings

Diagram created by Lisa Dickson

It has been estimated that 80% of people living in the United States today have siblings.

The sibling bond may be the longest lasting relationship most people have; outlasting relationships with parents, spouses or children.

Siblings play a crucial role in the development personal identity and self-esteem. Brothers and sisters can provide emotional support, comfort, and a sense of stability, belonging, and continuity.

During Foster Care Month 2008, a statewide panel of young adults with foster care and adoption histories all agreed that the Family Tree Assignment was the most painful assignment that they had to do in school.

When families break down, relationships become complex and complicated.

Sibling relationships might include biological siblings who were relinquished or removed at birth, half-siblings, step-siblings or current/former foster siblings. Not all couples are married, so a sibling could include: "Mom's ex-boyfriend's daughter."

This postcard is part of Foster Care Alumni of America's ongoing national Culture of Foster Care Project.

Research demonstrates that the sibling bond is stronger between brothers and sister from dysfunctional families.

When parents are neglectful or abusive, older siblings often voluntarily take on a quasi-parental role. In such circumstances, it is common for siblings to nurture and protect one another.

75% of children in foster care in the United States have a sibling who is also in foster care. As a former foster child myself, I might worry more about the sibling who is still at home with the bio-parents.

Some social workers opt in favor of separating siblings who take on a parental role. I strongly disagree with this practice.

Entry into foster care is often accompanied by grief, pain, anxiety and guilt. Many foster children report feeling that "they have lost a part of themselves."

Casey Family Programs National Center for Resource Family Support argues that "informed practice tells us that separating a child who has taken on the role of parent from younger siblings hurts all of the children involved."

The younger children not only lose their parents, but also the older sibling with whom they have developed a strong bond. The older child experiences guilt and anxiety upon separation because he/she feels responsible for the younger siblings.

Research has demonstrated that siblings who are placed together in foster care tend to have fewer emotional and behavioral problems than those who are placed apart. "I relaxed," said one foster child when asked what he did after finding out that he was to be placed for adoption with his older brothers.

Siblings As Survival Unit:

Diagram created by Lisa Dickson

Quote from Time Magazine article; The New Science of Siblings: “From the time they are born, our brothers and sisters are our collaborators and co-conspirators, our role models and cautionary tales, our protective barrier against family upheaval. They are our scolds, protectors, goads, tormentors, playmates, counselors, sources of envy, objects of pride. They teach us how to resolve conflicts and how not to; how to conduct friendships and when to walk away from them. Sisters teach brothers about the mysteries of girls; brothers teach sisters about the puzzle of boys.

"Our spouses arrive comparatively late in our lives; our parents eventually leave us. Our siblings may be the only people we'll ever know who truly qualify as partners for life.”

Diagram created by Lisa Dickson

This diagram was created to illustrate the experience of an adoptee who is separated from his/her siblings.

This adoptee is: Grateful to have found a family. Grief-stricken over loss of the sibling connection(s). Guiltridden over not being able to express this grief to the adoptive family. All these things add up to feeling conflicted.

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This is such important information...we just got a child who is full blooded sibling to one of our children and we want to adopt the baby. We have to wade threw the system and pray that they will also believe siblings belong together. We adopted three other full siblings too.
I love that and its so true. I rarely speak about my brothers because it hurts so much that we all got split up in foster care. I took care of them and loved them like my own but when it came to rights well I was told I should be a sister not a mother.
Great post - I completely agree. :)
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