Sibling relationships are often the longest-lasting relationships in our lives. Brothers and sisters who grow up together share a unique bond that can provide stability and comfort, especially during difficult times. While foster care may provide a secure and protected environment, adapting to life in foster care can be challenging for children. It’s disruptive and can be traumatic, and separating siblings entering care can add to this trauma.
Children in care often face abrupt separations from familiar environments, including their homes, biological parents, schools, and peers. In those situations, the bond becomes even more vital for children in care, offering emotional support and continuity. Studies show that living with siblings in foster care can act as a safeguard, mitigating the potential negative impacts commonly encountered in placements.
When a child transitions into care, they get a new family and often find themselves in unfamiliar communities, adjusting to new schools, and yearning for the friends left behind. Uprooting everything they’ve ever known, even if their situation included neglect or abuse, can deeply traumatize them, instilling acute anxiety. Continue reading to learn how maintaining sibling connections is beneficial and sometimes crucial for the emotional well-being of children in care.
The Benefits of Placing Siblings Together
Research has consistently found that placing siblings together in foster care has significant benefits:
- Improved mental health and well-being: Siblings are a source of support and can help each other cope with the trauma of being removed from their parents. Kids fare better when placed with their siblings.
- Increased placement stability: Siblings who are kept together are less likely to experience multiple placements, leading to less disruption.
- Better chance of reunification: Keeping siblings together makes the family more likely to reunite successfully.
- Less likely to run away: Children are less likely to run away from placements when their siblings are with them.
- Higher adoption rates: Adoptive families are more likely to take siblings if they can adopt them together.
Consequences of Separating Siblings
Separating siblings in care can have profound adverse effects:
- Trauma and grief: Being separated is experienced as a traumatic loss, especially on top of the trauma of being removed from their parents.
- Attachment issues: Separated siblings struggle to form secure attachments and often act out.
- Poor mental health outcomes: Higher rates of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress are seen in siblings who have been separated.
- Higher rates of running away: Children separated from their siblings in care often try to run away to find each other.
- Placement instability: Children will intentionally disrupt placements to try to be moved closer to their siblings.
Prioritizing Sibling Connections
While keeping siblings together is ideal, it is not always possible, especially with large sibling groups. Even when separation occurs, fostering sibling connections is vital. Here are a few tips to help siblings stay connected:
- Arrange frequent visits and phone calls between separated siblings.
- Utilize technology like video chats to keep siblings connected.
- Place siblings geographically close enough to maintain contact.
- Involve siblings in each other’s activities and milestones.
- Have joint birthday parties and regular visits with all siblings.
The SOS Children’s Villages Illinois Advantage
SOS Children’s Villages Illinois is a unique model that places full-time, professional Foster Parents in single-family homes in one of its Villages, where up to six children, ranging in age from infants to young adults, call home.
While the historic traditional foster care model has often separated siblings, usually because a single-family can’t accommodate them, One of the hallmarks of the innovative approach to foster care at SOS Children’s Villages Illinois is the commitment to keep brothers and sisters together in a stable, single-family home with full-time, professionally trained Foster Parents. It’s one of the many ways that SOS Illinois provides stability for the children in its care.
Consider Becoming an SOS Foster Parent
If you want to become a foster parent, consider signing up with SOS Children’s Villages Illinois. Thousands of children in Illinois are ready to be welcomed into loving foster homes. If you’re prepared to take the leap and change a child’s life, check out how to make that happen.
Change a Child’s Life Today!
If becoming a foster parent isn’t for you, there are many other ways to support foster children and other foster parents. You can support SOS Children’s Villages Illinois here. You can also help by participating in an SOS Illinois fundraising event or making an in-kind contribution. The generosity of donors has enabled us to provide safe, stable, loving homes for more than thirty years. To learn more about hosting a fundraiser event for SOS Illinois please contact our Advancement team at (312) 372-8200.