What is most important in foster care? Yes, it is the care of the children, but what if they have siblings? How important is it to keep them together in one family unit? To answer those questions, you would need to consider what would be best for the child. I would say it is to keep the siblings together and as close to their biological family as possible.
Children are typically placed in foster care due to abuse or neglect in their home. When this happens, they are placed with another family member or in a foster home. A foster family is a safe environment for the child. However, for the child, that may not always seem like the case at first. A foster home is an unknown environment with unknown people—a situation that is apprehensive for adults and scary for children. How would we adapt to that environment, especially if we loved our parents, no matter what they were doing or the pain they were inflicting on us? When everything they have known is taken away, it may lead these children to experience an even greater loss, a greater trauma, and a greater anxiety.
A significant factor that has been shown to help alleviate these fears is if siblings are placed together in the foster home. This allows for a degree of normalcy to continue for the children. This allows them to have each other to lean on during the time of unknowns that they experience with foster care. This will lessen the trauma and isolation that the children will experience.
In her article, “The Importance of Keeping Siblings Together in Foster Care,” Alister Whitehead states: “Keeping siblings together is critical for maintaining their close bond and attachment and prevents further complex trauma as a result of them being separated.”
While it consciously makes sense that siblings in foster care should remain together, why doesn’t it always happen? The biggest reason is the Department of Family Services and other foster care agencies typically have a hard time finding foster families that will take siblings (more than one child at a time), aside from the fact that there is also a major shortage of foster care families across the country. As hard as an agency might try, it might not be possible to keep siblings together. That needs to change, but it is an issue of reality. Foster care is not easy, and often foster parents do not even consider the reality of two foster children even if they are siblings. As in everything, there are not enough support groups that encourage their situation.
“Since children in foster care experience more losses of significant relationships, siblings are often their only source for continuity of important attachments. For children entering care, being with their brothers and sisters promotes a sense of safety and well-being, and being separated from them can trigger grief and anxiety,” according to “Siblings Issues in Foster Care and Adoption.”
I do believe that parents know the importance of keeping foster siblings together, but it is hard to deal with the reality. It is not easy being a foster parent; foster parents love their foster children, but the court system often does not seem equitable, and frustrations with the biological parent occur frequently. Too often, the children they have loved are returned to unfit relationships. What is always important to remember is that they will remember the time with you and the time with their sibling.