Social workers usually make a strong effort to keep siblings together, especially if their case is likely to move toward adoption. There is always a need for families who are interested in and willing to learn about fostering a sibling group.
Fostering siblings can be great for both the kids and parents, but it helps for foster parents to go in with their eyes open and to have realistic expectations on the work involved. Blending several foster children into a home with biological or adopted children already in the home is hard work, but it can be done.
12 Tips for Fostering A Sibling Group
- Be patient. Forming attachment with each child in the sibling unit takes effort and individual time with each child.
- While it is critical to spend this time with each child when they first join your family, you will feel like you have zero extra time in your life to give.
- Lower your expectations for what you will be able to accomplish, outside of parenting, for the early days and weeks of fostering a sibling group.
- Line up support from friends and family for tasks such as housecleaning, laundry, yard work, cooking, etc.
- Line up therapists and other professionals the children may need as soon as you have their information available to you. For help finding adoption-competent therapists, consider this Creating a Family resource: A Guide to Selecting an Adoption or Foster Therapist.
- Be up front with your social worker before placements are offered to your family about what type of behaviors you cannot handle. Do not be afraid to say that you cannot or do not want to handle some behaviors.
- Do not expect the siblings to all transition into your family or process their experiences, or to behave the same once they are in a safe environment.
- Involve your biological and/or adopted children who are already in the home to help anticipate what will be new for the newly adopted kids and brainstorm ways they can make the transition easier.
- Try to plan a fun family activity each week that you can enjoy together. There is nothing like having fun together to build the bonds of trust, security and love. These activities will also help to blend the children already in the home with the sibling group. This activity should not cost much and should be something that you genuinely look forward to. Check out this Best Parenting Advice Ever (and it’s not what you think).
- Be very careful with supervision and limit the time that children spend alone without parental supervision, particularly if there are younger children already in the home. You may not know all the types of abuse the children may have been exposed to.
- Recognize that the children will likely grieve what they have lost before they are able to celebrate what they have gained. You know that your child is better off with you in your safe and comfortable home, but your child likely will not know that at first. Read What Every Foster Parent Should Know – 8 Losses Foster Kids Feel to help you understand their grief and be safe for them to process it.
- Be aware that the holidays might prove particularly challenging – especially the first one or two significant holidays that the children are in your home. Each child in the sibling group has his or her own unique sensory preferences and needs that will come to light when triggered. This post on 8 Tips to Manage Sensory Disorders at the Holidays can be a useful tool for managing those triggers.