A year ago, my husband and I became legal, adoptive, forever kind of parents to four incredible humans. As they looked on we raised our right hands and promised before God, the judge, our lawyer, a courtroom packed with friends and family, and most importantly, this committed little family, that we would fight for, laugh with, care for, and love them for the rest of our lives.
Now, we’ve never been biological parents, so we didn’t experience the whole sonogram thing where you get to watch a strange fuzzy image take shape as a tiny human. But we did see our kids’ faces for the first time on a screen via Zoom. And that moment created what I have to think was a similar burst of excitement, trepidation and an all-encompassing sense of, “Oh my goodness, what are we doing?” which provoked an overwhelming need to cry, laugh or both.
Short video of our story
When our older girls popped on the screen and saw us, they smiled—with their whole faces. It was otherworldly. And sure, Zoom buffered us a little bit, and the image was pixelated for a moment, but it isn’t an exaggeration to say I saw stars in my daughters’ eyes.
They looked so happy to see us waiting for them; I will never forget the gratitude that washed over us. It was a pool we would draw from many times in the days, months and years to come, Some moments would be beautiful, resounding and healing in their effect. Others would be deeply painful in ways my husband and I couldn’t have anticipated. But all would be experienced (and overcome) by our miraculous overnight family.
3 Hard Realities About Siblings In Foster Care
Here is a hard truth. Siblings represent a high percentage of kids in foster care as well as those who are eligible for adoption. For these kids, their siblings are often the only people — in the whole, wide terrifying world —who are safe and accessible family members. They’re the only people left in their lives whose smiles, eyes and laughs echo their own. Siblings in foster care are bound not just by DNA, but also by the sweet memories and broken histories only they share together.
And here is another hard truth. About half the time these precious, bonded siblings are split up when they enter foster care because a home is not available that can take on multiple kids to help them remain together.
Placements are hard for both the kids and the families who welcome them. Creating new rhythms and finding a new normal are hard. Figuring out how to cohabitate with strangers is hard. But studies show that when siblings are placed together, the likelihood of a successful placement increases. Why? Because they are not alone.
It took a hot minute for our family to come to an understanding of what normal meant to us, what together meant for us. And a lot of that time was the kids determining what those things meant for them because they hadn’t had much opportunity to plant roots, establish identities or even form likes and dislikes.
Yet because they were together, they were never alone.
It’s easy to read that sentence and think, “Well, yeah. Duh.” But I don’t mean in just a physical sense. I mean on those first nights in a new foster home where things that go bump in the night are cause for panic.
I mean when new rules and expectations set off internal alarms.
I mean when the harsh realities of their past brushes up against the finality of a forever home and a different future than they ever imagined.
I mean when kids are afraid to let their guard down because things can’t possibly stay this good or this fun or this sweet for long — no matter how many times we assure them they can be.
Even when our kids struggled to belong to us, they never struggled to belong to each other.
Siblings in foster care deserve to retain the only vestiges of the family they’ve lost–their siblings. They deserve the chance to grow up and grow old together. As of July 2022 our squad of four was given the assurance that they’d have those opportunities.
Yet in the end, no matter how intentionally we parent our kids, we will never be able to account for every day they lived before being placed in our home. We’ll never know the fullness of their past experiences and relational bonds. There are deep places in our kids that we’ll only scratch the surface of, but will never truly know because they have histories that pre-date us.
But because they were placed together and kept together, this little family that added us as parents will grow up with one another, people who do know and who were there. We are deeply grateful that they weren’t split up like so many children are; however, our kids are even more mindful and grateful that their siblings aren’t among the things they lost along the way.