According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, about 50% of children placed in foster care are reunited with their biological families. For the 50% who are not reunited, foster care adoption can be a rewarding possibility. However, many children enter foster care with a sibling or two, and every effort should be made to keep a family unit intact when feasible.
Keeping siblings together can make all the difference in foster care adoption. The kids have a right to know each other, and it really is in their best interest that they remain connected as family members while young. Growing up in the same home will allow the children to take advantage of the biological bond they share, and use it to support each other during difficult or transitional periods. Children as young as infants are often more comfortable when they are placed with siblings. For example, consider a baby that cries, and is only soothed upon hearing the voice of its older sister or brother. Having immediate access to the sibling alleviates anxiety for the baby and adoptive parent, and gives confidence and a sense of belonging to the older child.
Another benefit to adopting siblings out of foster care is that it avoids another painful separation for the kids. Often siblings in foster care have experienced a traumatic removal from their biological families . By placing siblings in the same family unit, the kids do not have to experience feelings of complete abandonment. Having a sibling around allows the children to reflect on the good times they shared, and cope with the bad.
Attempting to adopt multiple children into one household is not without challenges. Families with children already in the home sometimes sign on with the intention of only fostering and eventually adopting one more child. Some families are unable to provide financially for more than one child. Foster and adoptive families sometimes receive public assistance, but the amount given is only a small percentage of what it costs to raise a child today. This amount does not include future costs such as college educations.
Additionally, foster and adoptive families must take into consideration any pre-existing conditions that one or more of the related children may have. Occurrences of ADHD and autism, to name a few, seem to be increasing among American children. Bringing one child into the home with one of these conditions is challenging, bringing two or possibly more into the household could potentially create a dynamic that would not benefit the kids or adults.
More serious conditions such as developmental delays, juvenile diabetes, and congenital heart problems can pose additional challenges. These types of conditions would not only change the family dynamic, but put significant financial strain on the household budget. Although the ideal situation is to keep siblings together, there are instances when it may not be possible for an adoptive family. Sometimes a difficult decision must be made whether it is best to separate the kids so that at least one – if not all - of them will receive the benefit of individual adoption, or continue to wait to find that special family to take them all.
Whether a family adopts a foster child individually or with siblings, foster care adoption can be a beautiful thing. In many cases, it will be possible for a child to stay in contact with his or her siblings, even if they haven't been adopted into the same home. By providing this opportunity, adoptive parents will keep the family bond strong and nurture past and future connections.
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