When my husband Josh and I were exploring our adoption journey, we were on a waiting list for a baby. We were approved and getting our home in order. We set up a nursery, picked out baby names, bought bottles, clothes, car seat, etc. We were ready! While we waited for our match, we attended some meetings and activities to connect with other adoptive families that were also waiting.
It was November, National Adoption Month. We had the opportunity to hear from birth mothers, other adoptive parents, children who had been adopted, and adoption workers. We showed up at a meeting and were surprised to see a panel of representatives from the foster care program. We heard from some amazing people, learned about the great need for adopting older children and the great need to help keep sibling groups together. We learned there are over 130,000 older children in the United States on a waiting list to be adopted. Sibling groups of more two or more have a significantly lower chance of being fostered or adopted than a single child. Here we were on a waiting list for a baby while thousands of older children were on a waiting list for a forever family. This path felt so right for us. Our adoption journey changed in that moment. My husband and I were shaking and sobbing happy tears. Josh and I both felt in our heart that we needed to go and “find” our child that was waiting for us. Things moved quickly for us.
The next day, we called our private adoption agency and asked to be removed from the waiting list for a baby. We lost our deposit, donated all of the baby things, and signed up for foster care classes. We were ready and on fire! It was a 12-week course where we learned many things about foster care and adoption. Our licensing worker had us explore our strengths and weaknesses. Each child is unique and has different needs. Each foster/adoptive parent is different. Different classmates were licensed for these special children. Some wanted a baby, others could care for children and infants with health issues, some felt they had what it took to deal with the severe behavior issues. My husband and I felt we could take more than one child, specifically siblings, and help keep them together.
A couple of weeks before we would complete the classes and become licensed foster parents, we received a phone call from our licensing worker, Taryn. She asked if I was sitting down. She began to tell me she felt she had found our perfect match. They were a sibling group . . . wait for it . . . of FIVE KIDS! Three boys and two girls ages 5-13. They were described as polite, well behaved, healthy, and very energetic! They were a very tight-knit group of siblings who needed to stay together. My heart knew right away that these were our kids. I am the oldest of eight kids and very close to my siblings. I knew I had to do everything I could to help keep them together. The next day, we went shopping for bunk beds, several dressers, an Xbox, extra silverware, and other items for older kids. We went from just the two of us to a family of seven, just like that.
Our children have been with us 3 ½ years and are doing great. Our kids are still very close and have a very special bond. They are best friends. Let me share a story that shows how important keeping sibling groups together. A few months ago, my daughters and I rescued four kittens that were abandoned by their mother. They were only two days old. We took them to our house and tried bottle feeding them. We learned they needed to be bottle fed around the clock every 30 minutes. They were not taking the bottles and I knew they needed someone with more experience who could save their lives. We found a vet and their staff stepped up and offered to foster these sweet kittens, taking turns feeding them around the clock. We made the hard decision to turn these kittens over.
My daughters already named them, held them against their warm bodies, and fell madly in love with them. They kissed the kittens good-bye and the sobbing exploded from my sweet girls for the next several hours. They could barely catch their breath. Autumn took it the hardest. Through her tears, she cried, “ What if the kittens would be separated and couldn’t stay together like brothers and sisters should? What if the kittens feel alone and scared because they don’t get adopted together? What if they can’t find a mom and dad who can adopt them? What if they never see each other again? Mom, they MUST stay together! What if one kitten gets adopted and not all of them?
I knew in my heart my daughter had felt similar fear and pain. I knew what she was really crying about. Our kids were in the foster care system for 10 years. They were very lucky they were able to stay together while in Child Haven and the three different foster homes they were placed in. They lived in fear that they might be separated. That is the hard truth of foster care. I knew my husband and I had a home with empty bedrooms that were waiting to be filled. This was our strength. To keep a large sibling group together.
Helping a sibling group stay together helps preserve their identity. They have already had their world turned upside down and lost so much. That connection to family helps give them a sense of belonging. The bond siblings have is unique and outweighs most other relationships. Siblings are there for each other as they heal and move forward in life. Bonding with older children can be an issue. When siblings have each other, it can help with bonding and attachment to a new family. I really feel our children had a much easier time healing and bonding to us because they had each other. They truly get each other.
Our kids are resilient, thriving, happy, healthy, and are loved. We have found our new normal together as a forever family.