Half-siblings... it's complicated
My 21 month old daughter has been with us since she was 2 months old. We provide a safe, loving, nurturing beautiful home where she has lived as my daughter and bonded with my 6 year old son all of her life.
The social workers told me I had to do sibling visits with her 6 month old half-sibling (they have a Biological-mom in common) that she has never met and that the visits will continue for the rest of her life. The guardians of the 7 month old have contact with my daughter's 19 year old, drug-using, mentally ill Biological-mom. In writing it sounds mean, but just trying to paint the picture that there are issues with the safety and autonomy of my family. There are also issues with my daughter's self-image, development and the whole self-fulfilling prophecy worry. How confusing to take a child on these visits and tell her that is her "brother". If her permanency plan is to be raised by us, isn't it our responsibility to act in her best interest and have our attorney stop these visits at once? If she is our adoptive daughter, isn't it our choice who she associates with at this point in her development? A seperation of siblings was ordered months ago. I believe a grave error was made and a statute was violated by not placing the boy with us when he was born and they are trying to backtrack and fix their mistake and the best thing they can do is to let these children be! I found A LOT of case law to support my beliefs, but cannot find any psychological studies. My husband jokes and says how can they do a study on the psychological effects on children not knowing somebody they don't know. Any help or support would be appreciated.
The visits are supposed to be with the sibling right? Not the Biological mom? How often are these visits? I guess I am unsure of how the visits with the sibling might prove harmful if the visits are not with the Biological mom?

I am the adoptive parent of my second cousin (now 7y, been with us since 13mos), I have contact with his birth father, limited contact but contact none the less. He shares all of the same traists as your daughter's Biological mom (drugs, mental health, illegal activities). My son has a full sibling (2y) that was recently adopted by a maternal family member. She chooses to not allow any contact between the siblings.

I see this as nothing but harmful to both the kids. They have lost a great deal by having been adopted from foster care, even if our homes are infinetley better than thier birth homes. Why should they have to lose the opprutunity to know a Biological sibling? Particularly a Biological sibling that will someday be able to relate to the same sense of loss they will experience when they realize the circumstances that led to thier adoption?

I guess I don't see where your child having a chance to know her half-brother is harmful. As long as the visits are not occuring with the Biological parents present (which would obviously be unhealthy) I don't see the problem. The boy is your daughter's Biological half-brother, so you can explain it in just that manner. The younger kids are when they learn about adoption, the more normal it will seem and the less likley they will be to associate it with a bad thing.

Lots of kids who live in step families have half-brothers and sisters that they do not live with daily.....why would this be any different?
My sister was faced with the same situation as you when she adopted her daughter about 12 years ago. My niece was 17 months old when my sister got her as a foster child and about 3 when the adoption was finalized. During the 1.5 years prior to finalization she had ongoing visits with her older brother who was 11 when they were brought into care and had just started visits with her newborn brother. My sister had intended to allow these visits to continue after the adoption was finalized until she learned that the newborn would be returning to Biological-mom (in a drug treatment center) and the older brother would be remaining in fostercare with Biological-mom visits and a goal of reunification. She did not want her daughter to have contact with the brothers if they were going to remain in contact with Biological-mom because she thought it would be difficult for her to understand how come they could see Biological-mom (and maybe even live with Biological-mom) and she couldn't. Also, quite simply, she didn't want her daughter having that close of a connection to someone who she believed was a bad influence for her.

Cutting off contact with the older brother was a particularly difficult decision for my sister being that he had practically raised my niece for the first 17 months of her life, but she felt that it was the best decision for her daughter.

All I can tell you is that today my niece is one of the most well-adjusted 14-year olds I have ever met. She seems to have suffered no ill effects from losing contact with her brothers. She knows that they exist and she knows why she can't see them, but she doesn't seem to have a problem with it all.

If not having visitation with the brother is important to you, then I would recommend checking to see what your legal rights are. I'm in the process of being licensed for fost/adopt and they told us in the classes that once the adoption is finalized that sibling visits would be solely our choice (although they highly recommend it). I don't know if the laws are the same everywhere, though.
If any siblings ever come into care, I would want to know so that my AD could have a relationship with her sibling(s). In my opinion, that would be in the best interest of the children.
If she is still technically a foster child, then yes, they can require her to visit siblings because the state is still the primary guardian. If she is now adopted by you, then the state has no legal standing to require you to do anything at all. They can request you do visits, but it would be up to you to decide. Your attorney can tell you what your rights are though.
I see your point, however we had planned to tell our child of her adoption in small, digestible blocks as recommended by experts. Talking about adoption and then talking about siblings before you meet them.
Experts also say that our family has a right to our privacy and our autonomy as a family unit. We are the only family she as ever known and it would be confusing for her and would affect her self-image and development.
We don't want Biological-mom getting status reports on our family and that's where the safety issue comes in. Also, if a legal seperation of siblings was done because they proved they needed to be raised separately (all on their own before I even had a attorney)... they should be raised seperately. What if we gave them visits and they got to know each other.... then, my husband can't accept a position in another state? I guess I've already made up my mind that we are her parents and we are going to decide based on everything we have read and people we know in similar situations. I think I have read over 100 articles and at least 10 books and just wondering if there is something I'm missing. One doctor told me there are no studies on the psychological effects of not knowing somebody you don't know and they would handle it better if it was explained to them at the proper age. We struggled with this back in April and decided it was not in her best interest and were given articles about bonds and sibling visits, but they were all about kids being raised with their siblings and seperated when they were 6 or 9. There was no bond, so we told them not now. We are the adoptive parents and we should choose
who she associates with at her age. I'm just saying no, not now... and that should be good enough.
I'm confused...is your daughter's adoption finalized? If so, then the state can't make you do anything.

If she is a foster child and the adoption is NOT finalized then you do have to do the visits they request for siblings.

However, that does not mean Biological mom is getting reports on your personal information and I would make sure that the visits are done in a neutral place with you there. If Biological mom has already TPR'd then she doesn't have a right to see dd anyway.

I'd also say that all the information about adoption and being open about it and all that...it's great!Smile However at 21 months old, she is not going to understand anything about siblings or that the baby is her brother. Doesn't even need to be said - and likely all she'll do is "play" with him a bit and then like any toddler, ignore him.Wink

So I think a lot of your worries on telling her things etc. is unwarranted for now since she is so young. And once you finalize, I can't see them forcing you to do sibling visits?
Something to think about:

Would you want to be separated from your brother? Your siblings? The children are innocent of whatever the mother has done, their bond should not be foreceably broken because you don't want to upset your family unit. He IS her family too.

A lot of people, adults, like to talk about how well-adjusted the adoptee is, but you can never know what the deep down secrets and wishes are. I cannot imagine not knowing as much about my Biological-family as I possibly could. It is about identity, and where we come from.

I am not trying to be preachy and snide, just wanted to give you something else to think about.:flower:
Our adopted daughter came to us straight from the hospital and was adopted at 21 months old. She has brothers by blood and brothers by love. She has always looked at our Biological children as her brothers. They are the ones who she will run to full force and jump into their arms, they are the ones that sit down and play with her or fix her something to eat if we are not around. They are her brothers and the bond is so tight it is just amazing to watch.

Now her brothers by blood she too has a relationship with them. In fact, we get together with the three other families on a regular basis. There is no question of “does anyone else look like me?” because she knows the answer. She loves spending time with her blood brothers. She understands that they all came out of the same tummy. You watch the kids together and you see the same smile, same mannerisms, you see the connection. They have what you would call a cousin bond. As they get older they understand more and more the connections they have to one another.

For the adoptive parents we have the benefit of someone to share medical information with and someone to ask “do you deal with this issue also?” Yes we adopted just one little girl but with her we extended our family by adding three additional families to our lives.

I am not sure if you are upset because you feel forced to have the relationship or if you have no interest in having a relationship. It is so hard to explain but it is just a joy for us to have that connection. Not for one moment have I have regretted the choice we as a group made regarding contact. Our daughter is now 7 and she does get it. In the long run I truly believe keeping the connection with be a benefit for all of the kids.

btw – she was adopted through foster care and none of the siblings had lived together.
We thought about that. I did not think that as snide and preachy. You have a different perspective. Some people confuse "family" and "genetics".... and there is no sibling bond to be broken. We were advised that the purpose of sibling visits was to maintain and preserve establish sibling bonds and that does not apply. We just want to tell her while she is older and has the skills to understand. One worker suggested we do playgroups and then when she is old enough tell her he's her brother. A doctor said that would cause trust issues because he would feel like we were hiding other things. And there is still the issue of them getting to get used to seeing each other and, then, one of us moves away.
I thought we didn't have any rights also and it turns out that once you are listed as the adoptive parent in the permanency plan and the child is in your home 18 consecutive months you not only have the right, but you have the responsibility to make decisions on behalf of your child. And why start the visits now if they will end once the adoption is final? Her permanency and the autonomy of our family unit is most important. Breaking ties and starting over with a new family is not an issue here. There are no bonding ties to break, babies don't know genetics and my son is her brother. She's not being adopted to start over with a new family... we are the only family she's ever known. Why after all of the reading and research is it so clear to me and a couple people disagree with me and now it's an endless string of MDTs?
I wanted to add one more thing - we never used the word brother to our daughter regarding her blood brothers. At the age of 6 she connected the dots but by that point she had a better understanding of the relationships and differences between -the brothers she lived with and the brothers born to the same mother.

As far as the connection with Birth Mom - tell the other family you don't want information shared with her.
I would like to chime in here as an adult who has "been there, done that". I was not adopted, but due to divorce/remarriages in my family I have a combination of full-siblings, half-siblings, and step-siblings some that I was raised with and some not.

I was raised by my mother and for awhile it was just me and my full-brother. Later, my mom remarried and I inherited two step-sisters (who lived with us) and a few years later two half-brothers were born. These five kids I consider to be my siblings - no half or step modifier needed.

I also have 4 half-siblings on my father's side. The oldest two, I had a relationship with during the two years that I had visitation with my father every few months. The youngest two were born after my father dropped out of the picture and we have never met. I can remember what it felt like to go to my father's house and be told these were my siblings, only to then leave and not see them again until the next visitation, which was often several months away. I hated it! It felt phony! I felt like I was supposed to feel something for them that I didn't feel. I really didn't miss it at all when they dropped out of my life along with my father.

Based on these experiences, I am a strong believer that too much emphasis is placed on biology when it's the bonds that we build that really count. I love my step-father and step-sisters as if they were my own flesh and blood. I feel nothing for my father and his children. Whose DNA we all carry really doesn't matter.
It is not in the best interest of my child to associate with the other family. We were told from the time the Biological-mom was 4 months pregnant until 7 days after the baby was born that it was the law (and it is) that the baby be placed with his sibling. We were not even told the other family existed. We had the crib and bedding and clothes and diapers. It was like having a miscarriage. If I was a cruel person I would've sought custody of the new baby. That baby's family was not equipped or approved for two children in their home and a worker told me they were not interested in raising another man's son. I sent all of the clothed and diapers to the other baby's grandma and she sent me a thank you note with a photo for Ellie's baby book so I could show her when she grew up. I have a 6 bedroom, 4.5 bath home and 2 children. I was willing, fit and able to raise both children. I have experienced the loss of a child and could not be responsible for causing that grandmother pain. The babies would feel no loss if they were raised seperately and apart, but the grandmother would've felt terrible pain. Sad truth is "the polar star" in custody cases is the best interest of the child... yes, even over genetics. He didn't know grandma when he was born, but my daughter had a bond with me and my husband and son.I never hired a lawyer about the custody issue. I hired a lawyer about the sibling visit issue, but the baby has been with his grandma for too long now and there may be a bond. Since the baby was born I found out facts that disturb me and make me wish I could go back in time with the knowledge I have now. Other people placed them seperately and proved to the court they should be seperated.... seperation of siblings isn't easy to get... I didn't ask for it because I didn't know all the circumstances.... I didn't have an attorney at the time and depended on the workers and the GAL. So it was their decision to seperate them.
The judge already told them they "made a mess", I don't believe he would enforce a court order. The judge told them twice at the hearing we are her family and they are not. They had prepared a request for a court order for sibling visits and didn't give it to him because of that. They went back to him 3 weeks later without me present and said both parties came to an amicable agreement and agreed to sibling visits, so he signed it. Now we are contesting that. It really is a mess. I am not the bad guy. I have read and researched with an open mind because if sibling visits were in her best interest, I wanted what was best for her. The bad far and away outweighs the good and I have to choose the lesser of the two evils because I was put in a position I should not be in. The lesser of two evils is a normal, secure, childhood... and being told about the adoption and the siblings when their meeting is meaningful and they have the skills to understand. My six year old had been writing his name since he was 2 and reading since he was 3 and does division and multiplication and he is confused. Experts say to start using the language of adoption around 3 or 4 and her age-appropriate facts about her adoption between 8 and 11. They say if they ask about siblings at that time it build trust to facilitate the meeting. Some experts say do not tell them until they are past their teenage years. That mature adults are better equipped to handle the information. They say most teens already have issues with self-image and we don't want her to see him and think "that's where I came from, that's who I am" and the issue of self-fulfilling prophecy. Even a well-adjusted teen struggled with identity issues. I have plenty of time to read and research and I will know my child and know what is right for my child. Adults who are told feel a curiousity at best. There are some wonderful stories of friendships formed, but most of the time they are disappointed. Sibling registries only allow children 18 and over access. We should be able to access the sibling information without a registry. I could only benefit and build trust if she wanted to know sooner and she thought she was ready. With the Internet she could probably find them on her own, so it is best that I agree to help her and do so. I'm not sure about the future
and I don't have to be right now. But I am sure about NOW. The grandmother feels guilt, shame and embarrassment for how her son turned out and she should NOT. Learning from her mistakes is one thing, but using my daughter and that other
baby for her do-over is another. This is quite therapeutic to read this back and realize how strong my feelings for my daughter are and what a Mama Lioness I am when people are trying to use my daughter to ease their own minds.... more the department than the social workers. I love support and respect other opinions. They make me see this from a whole different perspective. Thank those who understand for their support and those who disagree for "playing Devil's Advocate" and helping me see a whole other side.
This seems so sad to me. It seems as though you are angry about not having been given the brother. It also seems you are finding research to support your beliefs rather than researching with an open mind.

"Some people confuse "family" and "genetics".... and there is no sibling bond to be broken. We were advised that the purpose of sibling visits was to maintain and preserve establish sibling bonds and that does not apply."

The bond is already there whether you recognize it or not. That is why he is her "sibling".

I don't even know what to say..............
I did research both sides to ensure I was doing the best thing for my child. DNA is not a sibling bond. I was hurt we did not get the boy, but was gracious to the grandmother. Isn't it best to not confuse
her and cause her identity issues as a young child? I am not saying they don't have 1/4 or 1/2 of the same blood. I'm saying there is no bond. No perceived or felt family connection. That cannot ever be obtained by playdates every 90 days. They had a choice of placing them together and at that time knew the children would never feel loss if they were raised apart. You can't miss somebody you never know. Years from now we will tell her appropriately and let it be her choice instead of our family having this forced on us.
Should I have been phony and said I would agree and when the adoption was final stop them? The adoption will be final in a couple months. But then they said they were going to court order visits "for the rest of
their lives like the grandmother and I were a divorced couple". That is the point at which I contacted a lawyer.
It is insulting and intrusive. I would think they would realize the ripple effect this would have on the foster care system. How many parents with loving, nurturing homes won't touch foster care with a 10 foot pole because they feel helpless while children they get attached to are having their whole lives decided by people who don't even know them. Doesn't the T in MDT stand for team? Who in the world knows my daughter better than me? Who in the world loves my daughter more than me? Now that I have legal rights I'm going to use them. I want what's best for her and truly believe that I am choosing the lesser of 2 (really 3) evils. 1.) I could continue these visits now and disrupt her stable family and damage her self-image 2.) I could stop the visits and she could handle her emotions (if any) when she is older and better equipped or 3.) I could ask the court for custody of the baby and hurt the grandmother. If you think stopping the sibling visit is harmful... are you saying #3 is the best option? I believe NOW that #3 would've been (knowing what I know now) 7 months ago. But right now, at this point in time the best of the three options would have to be to stop the visits now and nobody gets hurt or confused. We don't have some self-fulfilling prophecy... when my daughter is a teenager I can tell her she has siblings and when she can handle it she can meet him/them instead of seeing him/them before her idenity is formed and being told that is her family. Then she thinks that's who she is or she gets confused about her idenity and SHE ends up a teenager with 2 kids she can't take care of, on drugs and mentally ill and the cycle continues and we all end up around the MDT table again. Also... we agree to this visit... Biological-mom is 19 and rumored pregnant for the 5th time, so I'm not bitter about not getting the new baby because many others are sure to come along. Where will they place those children? And what about any kids Biological-dad fathers? It's so sad, but I did laugh a little when I told my husband if we agree to these visits in ten years we will have to rent a hall for sibling visits. We have an amazing family. I can't go into details, but we are the textbook perfect family with two loving parents, one boy and one girl, a beautiful home, 2 vacation homes, etc. etc. What happens when that little boys tells his grandma it's not fair that his sister gets to have 2 parents who aren't old, a stay at home mom (by choice, I have 3 college degrees), a wealthy father, elaborate vacations, a pony, a puppy, a car, etc. etc. etc. We could've "bought a baby" as someone once said to me... but, we were doing foster care. We had several children placed with us prior to her. She became available for adoption and we are in love with her. We want to give her a loving, normal, healthy, stable home. So why not allow us to do that for that child. Happily ever after happens in real life... it won't be perfect or a fairytale, but we truly want what's best for her. They have already told me when the Biological-mom has more children they would like me to consider them... after telling me I cannot decide what is in the best interest of the child I have now. Then I will have to decide what is in the best interest of my children and am I willing to deal with the department or the system again.
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