The need for fostering sibling groups is always high. When kids are removed from a home, it most often means all the kids in the home will be removed. It may feel intimidating to take in one child, let alone a sibling group, but there are many positives for the children when you do.
My family and I have cared for four different sibling groups during our five years of fostering. I can tell you it’s a gift to the kids and their families that we did. Here are 4 things you might not have known about fostering sibling groups.
1. It’s less traumatic for the kids.
Think about how it feels to be in a completely new and unknown situation—all by yourself! This can be scary and uncomfortable for anyone no matter their age. When sibling groups are together, the kids aren’t having to walk alone into your home. They can acclimate better because they still have a connection with someone from their biological family. Research shows that our brains are impacted less when you have someone with you in a stressful situation, rather than being totally alone. Having the safety of a sibling can decrease the trauma of being in foster care.
2. Birth order dynamics will still be present.
Even if the literal birth order changes because you have other kids in your home, the birth order dynamics of the sibling group will still be present. You will be able to see pretty quickly each child’s personality and how they interact together as a sibling group. It’s possible that you’ll see the child who’s in charge, the one who acts out for attention, and the baby who gets taken care of by everyone.
3. You’ll be able to identify the “parentified child” quickly.
It’s natural that kids who come from traumatic situations will figure out how to cope and take charge. A parentified child means that a child has taken on the role of the parent among the other siblings. They may take care of, bathe, clean up after and even cook for the other kids. It’s hard for this role to be broken instantly just by coming into your home. Be sensitive not just to strip them of their normal roles; ease into alleviating them of their responsibilities. It would even be respectful to ask them for some “tips” on how to help his or her siblings. Over time and once he or she feels more comfortable, you can help the parentified child find a healthier role within the sibling group.
4. The likelihood of reunification or adoption increases.
Taking a sibling group into your home could mean that the family will stay together long term. Childwelfare.gov states, “Studies have found that placing siblings in the same foster home is associated with higher rates of reunification, adoption, and guardianship. Additionally, siblings placed together are more likely to exit to adoption and guardianship than if they are placed apart.” Having permanency with biological family can have a big impact on a child’s life.
Many of us forget that being removed from a home is something that sibling groups have not asked for, and the resulting trauma may be significant. While feeling called to parent a sibling group will come with challenges, the decision to do so may result in long-term stability for children who desperately need it, result in the children having an increased chance of finding a forever family, and may even make the foster parenting process easier.
What’s keeping you from fostering a sibling group?