I’ve adopted through the foster care system twice. Both my son and my daughter have siblings that were also adopted (not by me). One came into care as part of a sibling group that was eventually adopted into separate homes. The other had siblings that came into care at different times and were placed in other homes. I also had a short-term foster placement of siblings who went on to be adopted together. Here’s what I think you should know about adopting children from sibling groups.

1. Family matters.

As a foster or adoptive parent, you know that family is not always defined by blood. One of the things that surprised me along my adoption journey, though, is how strong a sense of connection and protectiveness I felt toward my children’s birth siblings. I actually asked to be considered as an adoptive resource for siblings of both of my kids. After completing two adoptions, I am more convinced than ever that maintaining these sibling relationships (when it is safe) is a great benefit to everyone involved.

2. Every case is different.

The prevailing message in the adoption community is that every effort is made to place siblings together in an adoptive home. Sometimes this is truly the best option. Sometimes, for a variety of reasons, it’s either not possible or believed not to be in the best interest of the children. Certainly siblings who come into care together may have a strong bond that supports their comfort in the newness of an adoptive placement. They may also have developed behaviors that helped them survive in previous situations that prove maladaptive (and sometimes unsafe) when they are placed together in an adoptive home. The bottom line: every case is different. Every family is different. Every child is different. There is no one-size-fits-all approach that is best for every situation.

3. You can make it work.

Both of my children maintain relationships with their birth siblings. The amount and type of contact is different for each (which, to be frank, is a part of the adoption journey that is unexpectedly hard to manage as a parent). But we make it work. In this age of technology, there are lots of ways to stay connected (especially as your children get older). One of my kids has several siblings (in several homes) that all live in our area. We’ve connected as parents and formed what we affectionately call “the tribe.” We are a motley crew—parents who likely would have never met aside from our kids’ biological connection, kids who others want to call “biological,” “foster,” and “adopted” but who all splash together in the pool, who all share greasy slices of pizza, who all hug when it’s time to go home. This arrangement has been a huge blessing and support to our family.

Adopting children who are part of a sibling group can be a challenge, but it can also be a joy. Choose to celebrate your child’s biological connections, to share their story with them in honest yet age-appropriate ways, and to do what you can to maintain sibling relationships when it is safe.