Friday, July 22, 2011

"Foster Friday" - Foster Siblings

Since I began my own foster/adopt journey, I've been connected with several friends considering foster care, and always one of their main concerns is how being a foster family will affect their biological children.   Not having biological children of my own, I've always tried to put them in touch with other foster parents with bio kids.  The "Foster Friday" panel is fortunate enough to have not only several foster/adopt parents with biological childre, but a longtime foster sibling as well!  This week's topic is dedicated to answering some of those questions related to fostering and adopting, and how this crazy, often volatile. yet wonderful world of foster care affects our children.

Diane - My adopted daughter (now 12) was almost four when she was adopted during the same time that two younger foster siblings (sisters) were being reunified with their mom. Up until those few months, the three girls did not have any concept of being foster children and had no reason to believe they were not full sisters, since they had each come to me younger than 18 months old and had been together about two years. My daughter had a crash course in biological parents, foster families, adoption, reunification, and more. As a four year old, who was mature for her age anyway, she understood more than some adults about the whole process. Since that time, she has openly desired to continue to be a foster family, was happy to adopt a brother four years ago, is thrilled we are adopting again, and talks of adopting as an adult. She is a loving big sister and, although now a typical (pre-)teen, willingly helps with the younger children, especially young foster children.
My son (now 8) was adopted when he was three and struggled when we had a foster daughter just a year younger than he was (at age 5). He did not like to share his mom, and the competition was almost too much to take. Since then, we have had two infant/toddler boy placements, and he has done much better. I learned that he needs to be significantly older than a new child to deal with the situation. He willingly accepts the little ones and wants to teach them. He asks about their future, how long they will be with us, and wants to make sure they are okay. He is a good big brother and should make a good father some day.

Debbie - We haven't had any foster children yet but we have a 3 year old daughter so I thought I could answer part of the question. How do you hope to see your child grow/change?
I hope that we'll see her heart grow for people in need as we are able to touch foster children in our home.

I hope we are able to teach her that it's better to give then it is to receive. Giving love when love is not returned can be a hard lesson for a 3 year old.

I hope she learns to love with an open heart with no concern about the medical, physical or behavior problems that a foster child may bring in to our home.

I hope that she'll learn to love unconditionally when a child comes in to our home and still be able to love just as unconditionally when the next child comes in to our home.

I hope she'll adjust to not being an only child quickly. I already know she's going to be a great helper.

I hope that even though she's young she's able to tell us how she's feeling with the changes that will come.

I hope we're able to guard her heart through the loss. And at the same time I know she'll help heal our hearts through the loss because she's a sensitive girl who loves to love.

Mama Foster - When you first decide to foster you have a lot of people who will ask you "but what about your biological children?" meaning how do you think it is going to effect them, if you feel like you will be able to protect them from the negatives that come along with foster care, ect. I have seen so much good come from my son being a big brother to foster children that i would definately not hesitate to tell another mom that wanted to foster to try it. My son has way more compassion that i think he ever would have, he has more of a grasp on real life-the sometimes very hard life-that other children have that he knew nothing about before meeting our foster kids. I can almost guarentee that he will grow up to be an adult that sees the needs of others, instead of just focusing on himself.

Now, that is not to say it is all easy and perfect. There are, i believe, somethings you need to take a good hard look at before bringing a stranger into your house.

#1 i would highly suggest not taking in foster children older than your current youngest child. I do not have any scientific proof that this is best, all i can say is that it has been what is best for our family.

#2 taking in a sibling group larger than your bio children may make your own child feel left out or out numbered. I have seen sibling band together when in foster care, which isnt a bad thing, but it may become an issue of them vs all the other children in your home depending on their personalities.

#3 i didnt realize the emotional toll it would take on my child when kids left. It has been sad and hard to watch five children come and go. I do my best to keep an open dialoge with my son and let him grieve how ever he needs to but it still breaks my hert to see him upset once the grief hits him.

Yet again, i have to add that foster care is not a natural thing. It is hard on everyone, but i know it has made us all better people...

My son included.

And last, but most definitely not least...  If you've ever worried about or wondered how the challenges, trials, and tribulations of fostering or adopting might affect your biological and forever children, hear what our very own Kylee has to say on the subject. 

Kylee - My involvement with foster care has only been as a bio sibling, so that makes this topic one that I am very excited about! Our first placement came to my family about ten days before my 8th birthday. At the time, I was the youngest of four kids, so having a baby in the house was an adjustment. I remember at my 8th birthday party, my mom spent much of the night upstairs with a screaming, very abused 3-month-old baby girl. Thus began my life as a big sister to many foster children…

Growing up with foster siblings in my house was one of the best things my parents did for me. I was exposed to a lot at an early age, and saw the repercussions of drugs, prostitution, and alcohol very early on. Caring for babies who were born drug exposed and loving on kids from hard places, helped me see some of the downside of the things that the world deems as “glorious”.

That being said, I believe it is incredibly important to involve your bio kids in the everyday life of foster care. Allow them to help in age appropriate ways. I think a large part of my passion for foster care/adoption is due to the hands on ways I helped out. I fed the babies bottles, changed their diapers, and when I was old enough (and ONLY when I volunteered), got up with the babies in the middle of the night. Bonding with them and loving them in that special way allowed me to see from a young age the need they have to be loved! I saw the hurt, but I also saw the way these kids changed as they lived in a healthy, safe environment. I know lots of foster parents are afraid of placing too much on their children, but I cannot stress enough the importance of having everyone in the family do his/her part.
My mom was good about telling us kids when there were court dates with our foster siblings and what was going on with their case. I often times went with my mom and foster siblings (we always cared for children much younger than I) to parent visits and met their parents/relatives. It was important for me to see the whole picture and know what was going on in these kids lives, whom I had grown to love so dearly! I understand that there are some things that need to be held back from your child(ren) for their own protection, but just know, if your kids are curious enough, they will find out. I was that child who quietly sat at the top of the stairs and listened into the discussion when our caseworker came to visit : )

Lastly, know that your child will love deeply. As a child, I sat in my mom’s arms and cried my little eyes out when a foster sibling would leave my home. That doesn’t mean your child is being scarred for life, it just means he/she is learning to love in a beautiful, tender way.

I was changed by growing up with foster siblings in my home. It is an experience that I would never, ever change. I have so much to say about this topic, and not enough space to write it out. If you have any questions, feel free to e-mail me at


MamaFoster said...

love love love her.

Mama P said...

Great post, and SO glad to hear from Kylee! I dream of the day my son will have those same feelings. We've learned a lot since starting foster care with him, and I have to agree with it being much easier and better for the BioKids to be the oldest. That has been our experience too, even though it limits us on what we can take in right now since he's four.

Thanks, Tammy!

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