Many hopeful parents consider adopting a sibling group when they are starting their process to build a family. There are some things to consider if you are thinking about adopting a sibling group.
What are the benefits of adopting a sibling group?
There are some amazing benefits for children adopted as a sibling group. For many of us, our sibling relationships are the longest-lasting relationships we will experience in our lives. Our sibling relationships are critical to our identity formation.
Adopting a sibling group allows the kids to maintain their biological family connections and to retain their birth family’s culture. Adopted siblings have companions in the home who have experienced the same life journey. They do not have to work to understand or be understood by each other. They can also retain and continue to build their racial identity as they grow up together. Placing siblings together in an adoptive home can also minimize the trauma that children experience in foster and adoption processes.
However, adopting a sibling group can also present added layers of challenge. Before you jump headlong into choosing a sibling group, here are a few of the things you should think through carefully. These are also good conversation starters to have within your family to help them learn and be on board with your plans.
Educate yourself about the issues of adopting siblings
Read — a LOT.
Read all you can about the importance of birth order and concerns about disrupting birth order. Learn about the risks of virtual twinning. Talk with former foster youth and adult adoptees who were part of a sibling group to hear their experiences.
Here are three important resources pages full of content to help you educate yourself:
- Disrupting Birth Order
- Adopting More Than One Child at a Time/Virtual Twinning
- Blending Biological and Adopted Children
Seek a Mentor.
If you have not yet adopted or have never parented before, it’s a good idea to seek an experienced foster or adoptive parent. You can ask them to “mentor” you through this process, giving you the insight into their daily life and support for your preparations.
Additionally, our online support community is full of both parents and adoptees who share their experiences to learn from each other.
Consider how many “layers” of adoption issues you feel prepared to handle
There will be many additional hurdles your family will face as your children grow. You may already have experienced some of these, but it’s beneficial to think carefully about adding more to your plate. The “more” might include medical issues, educational needs, a history of trauma, abuse or neglect, and transracial adoption.
There are relationship dynamics unique to sibling sets that will add another layer to your adoption and transition as a family. These dynamics are not impossible, but they do require awareness and preparation. It’s helpful to consider a sibling group as another specific need when researching and preparing.
Learn what realistic expectations you should set
If you are already parenting several children, you know that setting realistic (read: lower) expectations for both the transition and daily life is imperative. It’s even more critical to keep your expectations accessible and achievable when considering a sibling group.
Siblings come not just with their unique personalities forming, but also with dynamics and mannerisms from the family of origin or the environment where they lived. Integrating those children into their new family takes a higher level of preparation and intentionality. Still, it also requires a long-view mindset that offers plenty of grace, space, and time.
It won’t just be the new sibling set that needs the benefit of lowered expectations either. Your existing family dynamic will shift and change as you all learn about each other and settle into your new normal. Going into a sibling group adoption requires realistic expectations for you all to find your footing and thrive together.
Analyze your motivations
When thinking about why you want a sibling group, be honest with yourself. There is no right answer to these questions but consider asking yourself – and your partner if applicable – some of the following questions to support this process:
- Are we willing to say yes to a group just because we want “this particular age” (or gender)?
- Is it possible that we are considering a sibling group because we can “once and done it” to build our family?
- Do we have the capacity to do the hard work of keeping a child connected to his siblings if we don’t adopt them all?
- Can we commit to gaining the skills and experience necessary to parent a wide range of ages at once?
- Are we feeling pressured to say “yes” just to move this process along?
You might find that these questions prompt yet more questions. That’s okay – of course, you don’t want to overthink things to the point of “analysis paralysis,” but you also want to take the time now to explore as much as you can. These thought exercises are a good starting point in your education.
Shore up your foundation
Before you pursue any adoption process, it’s always wise to prioritize your primary relationship (for many, that is marriage). You must have a strong foundation for your family life before going into a sibling adoption. The settling in season will split your attention in many directions, and you will need your relationship to be a safe space from which to operate.
Consider taking trauma-informed parenting classes together and using it as a springboard for conversations about conflict resolution, decision making, correction, and structure in the home. Be honest with each other about where your communication style can improve. Set healthy habits for nurturing your relationship with regular date nights and other activities that feed your intimacy.
Take Your Time To Think It Through
Adopting a sibling group has many benefits for the children and can be a great way to build your family. Self-examination and honest assessments of your resources will help you determine whether a sibling group is right for your family. By considering these extra layers and learning about the issues that sibling groups can present to a new adoptive family, you are preparing yourselves well and positioning your family to thrive.
Image Credit: Tony Alter; Stephanie Chapman; RobertBH (Images resized and cropped to fit our parameters)