For many youth experiencing foster care, their siblings are the only constant presence in their lives. A brother or sister may be the only person who understands and shares their experiences and can help them make sense of all the changes they’re going through. Siblings placed together in the same foster home often feel more connected and secure, too.
When siblings are separated from one another, research indicates many youth feel “they have lost a part of themselves.” The grief and complex emotions that stem from losing connection with a sibling can compound the anxiety and pain they feel over separation from their parents. More than 50% of all youth in foster care have one or more siblings and some stats show as many as 75% of youth are placed apart from each other. Keeping siblings together can prevent a lifetime of longing and searching for lost brothers and sisters.
In this story from Lisa Ahmann, Foster Care Specialist at KVC Nebraska, she shares the moving journey of a brother and sister in foster care choosing their own paths, and supporting and loving each other no matter what. Lisa submitted this story during KVC’s Annual Story Contest. Youth names have been changed to protect confidentiality.
Keeping Siblings Together in Foster Care
As a Foster Care Specialist, I support foster parents and youth in foster care, including lots of siblings sets. As kids enter foster care, we always try to place siblings together since we know those sibling connections are so valuable. When it’s time to exit foster care, whether through safe reunification with biological caregivers, adoption, guardianship or independent living, siblings typically stay together. But not always. This is John and Julie’s story.
Siblings just like John and Julie need someone like you. Become a foster parent today!
Julie and John were teenagers when they entered foster care. They had been through a lot but were glad to be placed with a familiar person, Julie’s best friend’s mom. As they settled into their new home and their foster mom learned how to have three teens in the house after only having one, everyone seemed to be adjusting well. But there were a few challenges ahead.
Siblings Look Toward the Future
When Julie started making self-harming statements and unsafe choices, the team decided she needed more supervision and therapy. She entered a residential psychiatric treatment program to get the help she needed. John stayed in the foster home and was really blossoming into the person he wanted to be. He became a great student and excelled in art.
While thinking about his future and what he wanted his life to look like, John told his foster mom that he didn’t want to leave, he wanted to be adopted. As Julie worked to stabilize her mental health, she started thinking about her future too. She decided she didn’t want to be adopted and preferred to go into independent living.
John and Julie have a special bond and even when they didn’t have anyone, they had each other. So, you can imagine how they felt when they were heading in different directions.
Supporting Each Other Through Thick and Thin
John was really happy to be moving toward adoption but didn’t want to upset Julie, so he wouldn’t bring it up when they talked. Julie wanted the best for John, but really hoped that he might change his mind. There were lots of sad phone calls and pretending not to care, but eventually John and his foster family decided to officially work toward adoption. Things progressed and then the final adoption court date was set. Julie was still in the residential treatment facility but received the Zoom invite for John’s adoption court date.
On adoption day, John was at the courthouse with his foster—soon to be adoptive—family. Everyone was wondering if Julie would Zoom in. When Julie popped up on the screen, happiness flooded the room. I could feel John’s relief that his sister was supporting his decision to be adopted. The foster family cried happy tears and the foster mom told the judge she will always love and support John. And I cried too. I always cry at adoptions.
Even though John and Julie wanted to follow different paths, they still supported each other and always will.
How to help youth and sibling sets in your community
Currently, more than 5,000 children and teens are experiencing foster care in Nebraska. Many of these youth have experienced abuse, neglect, or other family challenges and have been removed from their homes by the courts for their safety. Foster families provide care and support for these youth while they are in out-of-home foster care. It only takes ONE caring adult to change a child’s life. Learn more about becoming a foster parent in Nebraska or contact our Foster Parent Recruitment Coordinator today!