On Siblings

Foster Parenting

I’ve been putting this post off for eight weeks or so.  I’m not sure why. I think maybe it’s partially because I don’t want to sound defensive. Or maybe it’s because I’m not sure we made the right call. Or most likely, it’s because I’ve realized that in the past couple of months we have become “the system.”

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We offered our home to a little one this winter knowing she had siblings that they couldn’t place. We didn’t have the physical space or emotional bandwidth so we did what we could. After a few weeks it looked like they were still having a hard time finding a longer term placement home for some of her siblings. We had them over, provided respite on multiple days, and had what felt like a million conversations on what we could reasonably do.

“If you find can’t find a home, this is what we could do.” “If you are going to go out of county, let’s figure something out”  “This is what I would recommend based on what I’ve observed in my home”

In the end, as you probably know, we took only one of the siblings into our brood. But that also meant splitting up kids that were in the womb together. Probably one of my biggest fears going into Foster Care.

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Here’s the thing, there are times in which  being removed from siblings is actually the best option in an environment of crappy options.

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“Imagine,” I thought, “a world in which brothers and sisters grow up in homes where hurting isn’t allowed; where children are taught to express their anger at each other sanely and safely; where each child is valued as an individual, not in relation to the others; where cooperation, rather than competition is the norm; where no one is trapped in a role; where children have daily experience and guidance in resolving their differences.” -Adele Faber in Siblings without Rivalry

I can’t imagine growing up without my siblings or what it would feel like to be separated from them. Those family dynamics are our first friends. Our first chance to explore communication. Our first experience with social/emotional dynamics.

We get to work on leadership skills and bartering and compromising in a safe environment. In a loving environment.

But if there is trauma, and there probably is if you enter our home, that’s a different story altogether. Sometimes  (many times) siblings that have been through trauma can trigger and trigger and trigger and trigger in a way that prevents any healing from being able to occur.

Sometimes, we need just enough space to simply be ok. To be safe. To be able to process. To heal. To work out our stuff in a loving environment.

And that’s ok.

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I follow a few foster families on Instagram that I love. I was reading through the comments on one of the more popular feeds and I was caught off guard. Someone was giving an example of their friend who had been in Foster Care. She and her sibling were adopted but “they” (this adoptive family) didn’t “want” the older sibling. They wanted to know why this foster family didn’t “want” their foster/adoptive children’s siblings.

It hurt a little. Did we not want their siblings either? Is it just a logistical issue? Are we actually the system you hear about. The ones that separated a family for what could, in the end of the story, be permanently?  Was it the right call?

I think it was.

I had them all in my home. I watched what it was like. I advocated not just for the kids placed here but for the ones that weren’t. They needed it too. They needed more help than I could give them. And they are getting it! They are in awesome homes that can meet their needs, allow healing to happen, and a chance to move forward. A chance to be loved uniquely.

“To be loved equally,” I continued, “is somehow to be loved less. To be loved uniquely—for one’s own special self—is to be loved as much as we need to be loved.” -Adele Faber in Siblings without Rivalry

Many of you have asked if they get to see each other. They do. There aren’t any restrictions on the amount of time they spend together between foster homes. And that’s something we can use to our advantage. Now, instead of a few islands of families trying to make it on our own, we are connected by their bond. We are a team connecting them on a more regular basis, in safe environments.

Giving them a chance to be loved as much as they need to be loved.

Today.

I’ll probably always mourn this process just a little bit. Mourn the tough calls we’ve had to make. Mourn the calls the county has had to make. Mourn that we are involved in this story in the first place. We really have no idea what the future will hold and the permanent “what-if’s” are too difficult to think about.

But we can do our best to love these kids today, where they need to be loved, in the way they need to be loved. We can foster these relationships. We can build a better, stronger, more stable community for them.

And that just may be, a more beautiful option than we could have ever imagined.

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