Thursday, November 20, 2014

Keeping Siblings Together In Foster Care

Just in case you didn’t know, November is National Adoption Month.  This year’s National Adoption Month theme is “Promoting and Supporting Sibling Connections.”  

Just last month I attended a training on the subject of maintaining sibling connections in foster care and we watched the following video- Brothers and Sisters:  Keeping Siblings in Foster Care Connected:
I was struck by the young woman in this video (see 6:22) who pointed out the correlation between foster children running away after being separated from siblings.  She stated that behavioral problems stem from being separated which I think is very telling. 
Another young woman who was separated from her siblings after entering foster care made the recommendations to child welfare professionals and policy makers in the video that If siblings can’t be kept together in the same home, then at least place them in the same area or school where they can still have contact with one another or ensure that they have frequent visits (at least once a month) with each other or make sure they’re able to call each other or write letters to each other.
The policy and common sense of keeping siblings together leads to the question of:  Why would siblings ever be separated in the first place?  Here’s three reasons why as discussed in the training I attended:
1)      The first obvious reason is limited physical space in a foster or adoptive home to adopt a large sibling group.  Not everybody has the space available to take in three or more children let alone one more child.
2)      Another reason to separate siblings is if they are a danger to each other- specifically in the case of cases of sexual abuse in their home of origin resulting in children “acting out” abuse on each other.  One of the presenters at the training I attended was careful, however, to point out the difference between a child being “sexually reactive” versus being a perpetrator.
3)      I also thought it was interesting that in the past, according to one presenter who works as an adoption specialist matching waiting children with families, that parentification was a reason to separate siblings.  In other words, If one child took on the role of being the parent to other siblings it was figured it was unhealthy and a remedy would be to separate that child from their siblings in order for them to just “be a kid” again.

Everybody needs a sibling connection no matter your age!  I’m a grown woman and I interact with my siblings at least weekly (if not daily) through calls, texts, or e-mails.  The thought of what my life would be like if I had to be separated from my brothers or sisters now or especially if we had been separated while growing up makes me very sad. 
I think it’s important for foster parents, child welfare professionals or anyone wanting to advocate for today’s youth who find themselves in foster care to put yourself in their shoes, as the young woman says at the very end of the video and consider how you would feel if you couldn’t see your brothers or sisters.    


G said...

I absolutely agree on the importance of maintaining sibling relationships.

I've never heard of parentification as a reason to separate and I'm not sure I agree with that one, although I'm not an expert. In my (purely anecdotal, one time) experience, the parentified child needs to see the other children being taken care of by someone else in order to let go of that role. So, when I had a sibling set in my home in that situation, we worked on slowly showing the 8 year old girl that she could depend on me and my husband to look after her little brother. We slowly weaned her off feeling responsible for everything he needed. I think if they'd been separated, she would have been beside herself, worrying that he wasn't being taken care of because she wasn't there to do it and she didn't trust that anyone else would.

Mary said...

G- what you and your husband did is EXACTLY what our presenter said should ideally happen in terms of parentification!

Anonymous said...

Keeping siblings together is so important. You must have been reading my mind, because I just blogged a list of how foster kids benefit from being placed together.

Making sure brothers and sisters could be in the same foster home is part of the reason we decided to foster.

Mary said...

Just read your post- great points!

questioner said...

What If sibblings are acting out sexually and have to be seperated from my foster home even if we were planning on adopting and we're almost at the end of the process, will I be able to keep one of the children when seperated

Mary said...

That is a question the caseworkers, therapists, or judge would have to answer.