Big sister giving piggy-back ride to little brother.

Siblings – Keep them together

Childhood relationships are precious and can last a lifetime. Of the many friendships we develop early in life, our brothers and sisters are our first friends and the ones designed to last the longest! Coming into foster care shouldn’t change that.

This very idea is what helped my family grow so big so fast.  During our 12 years as licensed foster parents, my wife and I adopted five sibling groups that, in addition to our own four children, gave us a total of 20 children! The largest of those sibling groups, a group of five, recently had a beautiful 2-week-old sister join them in our home!  Keeping siblings together is very important to our family!

The Division of Child & Family Services (DCFS) wants to keep siblings together when they are placed foster care, whenever possible. Often, that is difficult to do when more than 80% of the children are coming with a sibling and many new foster parents are choosing to take a single child.

Many times, the available bedroom space or family dynamics make it impossible for families to take more than one child and still be in compliance with licensing rules. Sometimes, the sibling groups are so large that finding a single placement is hard to do. Other times, fear drives the decision to care for only a single child. I’d like to address that.

As a Foster Adoptive Consultant with Utah Foster Care, I often hear families tell me that they want to “ease in to caring for children” because they are not sure if they can handle more than one child. During those interviews, I get to remind families that no matter how prepared they become, through study or experience, when your first child comes there is going to be a bit of a learning curve each parent must go through. This applies to all children, not just those in foster care.

I recently interviewed a family training to become foster parents. Jim (not his real name) aged out of the foster care system and is now a happily married father of two. He and his wife want to be foster parents because of the difference good families made in his life. During his time in foster care, he was able to stay with his brothers and sisters. Jim told me that it made all the difference. He said, “Staying together helped us not be too scared during those hard times and it also made us feel safe and important.”

If you are a currently licensed foster parent, we’d like you to consider caring for siblings or increasing the number of siblings you can welcome into your home. If you are not licensed, maybe now is the time. Fill out a request for information on our website and we will get you the details you need to start you on your journey to helping brothers and sisters in foster care not only stay together, but feel safe and important.

John Thill’s insight into sibling relationships comes from experience and runs deep in his family. He and wife Cayce recently added a newborn to the “Thill tribe”. (Note: Only 13 of them still live at home in Orem. )