Did you know that 2/3 of children in foster care in the US have a sibling in care? Indiana Adoption Program works hard to keep sibling groups together whenever possible, and so, in honor of #NationalSiblingsDay (that’s today, April 10!), we thought we’d share some reasons why it’s important to have adoptive families who are willing to adopt siblings together.
Many people consider adopting siblings for the “Instant Family” feel that sibling groups can provide. But there are so many other reasons to adopt sibling groups—and keeping the children together can provide them with a real benefit. Keep reading to find out 5 reasons you may want to consider adopting a sibling group—other than the great family photo, of course!
1. Siblings provide one another with a sense of stability and security, which they need even more when they’re in foster care or a new adopted family.
Coming into foster care can be scary, regardless of how old you are. You’ve been removed from your birth family, and most likely, everything is new and different. New school, new house, new clothes, new temporary siblings, new rules. It’s a lot to process. And it’s even more to process and sort through if you’re alone.
Siblings who are placed together in foster care, or are adopted together, don’t have to face all the new things alone. They have each other to lean on. Dakota and his older sister Desi remember being pretty scared when they first came into foster care. Desi, who is non-verbal, relied heavily on her younger brother to help her communicate. For a 13 year old, Dakota has a lot of insight: Even if you’ve been placed with a family for a while, “for a long time after, it’s like, ‘Who the heck are these people?’…. But having my sister with me really helped.” Desi and Dakota were fortunate to be adopted together, which has helped their sibling bond get even stronger. Their experience mirrors that of a lot of foster and adopted kids—and bears out the research too: siblings who are placed together are able to provide emotional support to each other.
2. Children can develop attachments with foster or adoptive parents better when their sibling bond hasn’t been damaged or disrupted.
Getting used to new parents—whether they’re temporary or forever—is a huge adjustment for any child, regardless of whether they are placed with their siblings or separated. But, there’s a lot of good research that shows that siblings who are placed together have an easier time adjusting, and they’re able to connect with their caregivers more easily than those who have been separated.
It’s as if the siblings form a “sub-unit” within the larger family unit—and that helps them bond with their new caregivers, and feel as though they have a place in this new family. Siblings who are placed together also report liking their new foster or adoptive home more than those who have been separated.
3. Keeping siblings together can promote their mental health because it avoids another loss.
Everyone knows what it’s like to feel lonely and sad. Children in foster care know that feeling to the extreme. They may feel like they did something wrong to end up being separated from their family. Or they may feel guilty for wanting to be adopted by a new family. Everything may seem like it’s tumbling down around them, and they just want to collapse. Sometimes, though, what keeps a child from giving in to that feeling of collapsing and giving up is that they have a sibling—someone they’ve known their entire life, and with whom they’ve had a long, enduring relationship—with them.
Older kids may recognize that their younger siblings need them to help navigate this new world they’re all getting accustomed to. Younger kids may be able to make their older siblings laugh and giggle, even if they don’t feel like it. In Dakota and Desi’s relationship, Dakota—the younger sibling—helped Desi get adjusted and communicate with their new family.
We’re not advocating that siblings take care of each other in lieu of parents, of course. But, it’s natural to want to take care of those we love. And sometimes, the way we take care of someone is just by being present and sharing their experience—which siblings can do when they’re placed together. And not only do they have shared experiences from before they were adopted, but when siblings can stay together, they can continue to create more shared memories and positive shared experiences as they grow up.
4. Siblings have a shared biological history which can be helpful in understanding current and future needs.
Knowing your child’s biological history can be critical when trying to assess their medical and developmental needs. Early warning signs may be easier to notice if you already know what to look for—and sometimes, having an older sibling is the only way for kids who have been removed from their biological family to know about hereditary conditions. It’s not about being able to predict with certainty what your foster or adopted child will need based on their sibling’s needs—because every kid is different, after all, even full biological siblings. But if siblings are kept together, it can save a family a lot of guessing (and second-guessing) about inherited physical or developmental concerns.
5. Siblings who are placed together may have better rates of reunification or permanency through adoption.
Recently, child welfare researchers have begun to study whether siblings who are placed together are more or less likely to experience multiple placements and moves. It might surprise you to learn that sibling groups who are placed together in foster care may experience fewer moves than children who are separated from their siblings. If they enter the foster care placement together, they’re more likely to remain together throughout the process, which also leads to more consistent permanency options.
We know there are times where siblings cannot be placed together, and situations that prohibit being adopted together. Sometimes, that is the best of the possible outcomes in order for all children in a sibling group to thrive. But, we also know that there is something intrinsically valuable about familial connections—and the more consistency and stability children and youth have, the more likely they are to thrive in a foster or adoptive home.
If you have been thinking about adopting a sibling group, we encourage you to check out some of the profiles of Indiana’s waiting siblings. And if you have a brother or sister, feel free to give them a call or send them a text to wish them a Happy National Siblings Day!