What is involved in adoption? What feelings and emotions are incurred during the adoption decision and then the adoption process? Many of the emotions will involve the uncertainties, the many unknowns, the frustrations, the highs and lows, and possibly the heartbreak and love of the adoption process.
How will adoption affect the emotional balance of the adopting family and existing siblings? Initially, there will probably be acceptance, love, and excitement. Depending on the age of the siblings, there will probably be feelings of jealousy, maybe even resentment, when they realize it is permanent; this new child is now part of the family. The extended family may have feelings of uncertainty about whether or not the adopted child a “good fit?”
I have a friend that says, “While friends come and go, your siblings are always there.” I definitely support that statement. Siblings from a special relationship, share emotions and share their lives. It is a relationship that one cannot go out and “find.” So how important is it to keep siblings together during the adoption process?
Personally, I did not have any siblings but growing up, I always wanted a brother or sister and often asked my parents for one. All my friends had brothers or sisters, and it seemed then that a family required more than one child. I wanted a playmate, someone that was always there. Reflecting, however, I realize that family is not determined by the number of siblings.
In my career with Child Protective Services (CPS), the hardest part of the job was to remove children from their homes when it was found necessary. Secondly, a very hard component of the job was the placement of children. There is a shortage of foster families in general, but there is a critical shortage of foster families who are willing to take two or more siblings. This means that too often siblings are split up; seeing their heartache, confusion, and pain is heartbreaking. They usually had no idea what was going on, why they were separated from their parents, and why they were being separated from their sibling/siblings and going alone to a home that was completely unknown to them. During this time, I thought a lot about what needed to be done to keep siblings together in fostering and adoption.
A major question in the adoption field is how important is it that sibling groups be kept together in adoption and how could the adoption process be better enabled to keep sibling groups together in adoption. In this adoption slideshow, many reasons are explained on why it is beneficial to keep siblings together unless of course there was abuse between the siblings. The discussion included the fact that if they are being taken out of their home and being placed for adoption, something must have happened for that discussion to occur. Some sort of trauma or negative events took place. No one can truly understand what emotions a person is feeling except that person, but the siblings have shared the same environment and now they share that same bond. It is important that they still have each other and get to continue to have that bond. Staying together with their sibling/siblings is also important for their individual identity and security; they know each other’s experiences and have a sense of how to look out for each other. Adoption has its own share of emotions, and it should be the child’s right to be able to stay with their siblings.
A real-life story of a family relates to the importance of siblings staying together and the value of adoptions together. A couple decided they wanted to start a family and felt called to foster care and adoption. They originally thought they would want to foster or adopt a baby, but then were led to older children. They accepted a sibling group of five extremely close children and wanted to be placed together. The story shares an incident that demonstrates the importance of sibling relationships and family: The family found some kittens and were trying to take care of them, but the amount of time it took to bottle feed them was too time-consuming for the family, and so they took the kittens to a veterinarian. The siblings were very upset when dropping the kittens off because they were so worried that the kittens would be separated from each other and not have each other when they got older. This story of the kittens reflects how ingrained the value of family is and the value of siblings remaining together, even in the hearts of young children. It resurfaced many of their own emotional traumas and the importance for them to all to remain together.
Even though many people see the value of keeping siblings together in the adoption process, it remains a debatable topic. In a forum discussion, there were many responses when someone asked about adopting an individual child versus the sibling group. Many responses stated that adoption agencies should try to keep the sibling group together at all costs. Others stated that there may be special circumstances or safety circumstances that do not allow that to happen, such as a large sibling group. In those cases, they try to put some siblings together in one home and the rest of the siblings in another home, so they are at least with some of their siblings.
The debate continues when, for example, in this forum. It was asked if siblings were still kept together even when it caused negative behaviors such as one sibling feeling he or she needed to be the “mother” figure for the other sibling. Many of the responses to this forum suggested that it should be a family-by-family or child-by-child basis. One wrote, “I think it’s an individual thing whether siblings should stay together. Is there a bond between the children? It is destructive or supportive? If an older sibling is parenting a younger one, does this parenting undermine the adult parenting?”
Not only is it emotionally better for children to be adopted with their siblings, but siblings also want and desire to be together as well. In a recent article, the many benefits and the importance of placing siblings together and adopting siblings together were discussed. It stated, “any child in the foster care system awaiting adoption will have transition issues, but having a sibling who has experienced the same upbringing and much of the same trauma helps ease them into the permanent, adoptive home.”
Adoptions together not only relate to adopting siblings together but also to fostering siblings together. In a fostering forum, there was a discussion about whether the Department of Children Services (DCS) would keep siblings together in placement. The writer noted that she has five foster children, one of whom’s biological mother was about to give birth. The writer asked if the newborn was removed would DCS would place the infant with them and their siblings? Discussion is related to the fact that while DCS should and typically tries to keep siblings together, it, unfortunately, does not always happen.
Positive impacts are being made concerning siblings together in care. A bill in Maine was recently passed and is going to be enacted in the next month. This bill, sponsored by Representative Richard Malaby, enforces the importance of keeping siblings together. This law will prevent children in care from being separated. The value was noted about keeping siblings together, and how they need a support system. “You’re talking about children who have already been separated from their parents because their parents can’t take care of them, and now we’re doing the added damage to this child of separating them permanently from their siblings,” stated the article.
Many others also realize the importance of adoptions together. A forum stated, “It is very important to keep sibling groups together wherever possible. Kids who’ve gone through foster care together are even closer than your average child because the only constant in their lives is one another. They have protected one another in many cases.” There were heart-wrenching stories about so many children in foster care or who were adopted with siblings. One response talked about the child she has in care who is 4 and a half and has been in 20 placements already. This just indicates that there needs to be a change in the system and how these children are placed and adopted together.
As discussed, the reality is that siblings may not always be able to be placed together. For these siblings, there will be unknowns and questions about their biological families. This is such a popular topic in our society today that there are even shows about it. Long Lost Family, on TLC, depicts families becoming reunited after long periods of time. This enforces that not only is genealogy important to our society but that people are ardently searching for biological siblings and families. They will take whatever measures, including being on a television show, to find them.
Adoptions together and keeping siblings together is a very important topic in the adoption world. There are much talk and debate over the importance and the best ways to keep siblings together. While I understand it isn’t a perfect world, I feel the research and personal stories show the remarkable value of keeping siblings together whenever possible.
Considering adoption? Let us help you on your journey to creating your forever family. Visit Adoption.org or call 1-800-ADOPT-98.