Written by Washington Foster Team
“The emotional power sibling relationships hold makes them a critical piece in maintaining a child’s psychological health, not only through childhood, but well into adulthood.” — Should Siblings Be Placed In Foster Care Together?, Foster Care Newsletter
It’s understandable that most children who enter foster care feel lost. They might be changing schools, changing neighborhoods, and losing contact with friends. But what if they also have to leave their siblings behind?
As you can imagine, separating foster youth from siblings may cause additional loneliness and a feeling of being disconnected from one of the only constants in their life.
Believe it or not, siblings within the foster care system are common. The National Center for Youth Law estimates that up to half of foster children also have siblings in foster care.
Thanks to 2008 legislature, agencies around the country now prioritize placing siblings together in foster care homes, with foster families, or with adoptive placement. This is because placing siblings together comes with a host of benefits.
The Benefits Of Keeping Siblings Together
“When a child is removed from their family sometimes they are also removed from their school, siblings help each other through those changes.” — Jill May, Executive Director, WACF
Entering the foster care system can feel scary for many children. By keeping siblings together, children get to keep a piece of much-needed steady familiarity in their lives. The presence of their brother or sister allows them to better adapt to new situations successfully because they don’t feel as alone.
Plus, the emotional trauma that comes from separating siblings can make a foster care experience significantly more challenging.
By keeping siblings together, you avoid that trauma and provide children with their natural support system. “Siblings help each other feel safe in a new environment,” says May.
Things You Should Know About Fostering Siblings
While there are many benefits of keeping foster siblings together, this does require special considerations for foster parents. “It’s important to seek training or support from other foster parents or your social worker about the challenges of having siblings placed together,” says May.
For one, the oldest sibling has often taken on the role of parenting and may have a difficult time letting someone else take over that role. By recognizing the special and powerful relationship between siblings, you can offer support that aligns with their unique needs.
It’s also important to note that sometimes sibling placement isn’t preferable. This usually includes instances when there has been abuse between siblings.
With proper training and education, foster parents can successfully support siblings and help keep a family together. By fostering siblings, you’re giving them a more stable and hopeful future with improved outcomes.
Want to find out what it takes to foster support for siblings who need you? Download our free resource: Is Foster Parenting Right For You?