Vol. 14, No. 1 • November 2009

A Foster Parent Asks . . .
Do you have advice for a family considering adopting an older sibling group?

Question: Do you have advice for a family considering adopting an older sibling group? We are interested in adopting a sibling group of children ranging from age 4 to 15, but we’re hesitant about adopting older children. What are some things we should consider before moving forward??

Congratulations on your decision to adopt! While every adoption is unique, adopting older children and sibling groups can present specific challenges and joys to your family. Here are some suggestions for families thinking about adopting older children and sibling groups:

1. Understand the value and power of sibling bonds. Prior to their entry into foster care, many older children take on a parenting role for their younger siblings. Most children experience significantly less stress when placed with their siblings. Allowing visits and phone calls between adopted children and their birth families, when safe and appropriate, is also a way to relieve children’s anxiety.

2. Be prepared for challenges. Don’t be surprised if, after a “honeymoon” stage, children’s behaviors rapidly deteriorate for a while. Children who have been maltreated by adults often have difficulty learning to trust new adults. While it’s easy to think that simply loving a child is enough to take away their previous pain, it is not unusual for foster children to try to reject an adoptive family so that the family does not have the chance to reject them. Give all children, but particularly teens, the time they need to adjust.

3. Assess your commitment. Most seasoned adoption workers have experienced a time in which families have adopted sibling groups and later have tried to “return” the oldest child. This is difficult and painful for everyone. To help prevent this, consider beforehand whether there is anything a child could do that you couldn’t handle. Discuss these concerns with your family and the professionals involved in your adoption. Educate yourself on attachment, rejection, and other issues around adoption. Be honest with yourself about the impact that potential behaviors will have on your family, particularly on children already in your home.

4. Talk to, educate, and prepare your existing children. They deserve to know in advance what they might see and how your parenting may change after the adoption. Let them know that things like discipline may look different for a while—for example, you may be more lenient with children new to your home than with children who have been there longer and understand your rules. Although parenting and discipline may not be equal in the beginning, assure them that it will be fair.

5. Be aware of the benefits available to families who adopt from foster care. Being in a sibling group and/or adopting an older child may qualify as a “special need” and may include eligibility for an adoption subsidy and medical assistance until the child’s 18th birthday. Children adopted from North Carolina foster care on or after their 12th birthday are eligible to receive a scholarship to attend any state college, university, or community college in North Carolina. This can include the full cost of attendance. For more information, go to <www.ncreach.org>. Children adopted on or after their 16th birthday are also eligible for a Federal Education Voucher of up to $5,000 a year to any public institution of higher learning throughout the country.

6. Be open to the blessings adoption can bring. Don’t be surprised when you realize that it is possible to love adopted children as much as you love the other children in your home. Although older children can have difficulty reciprocating the love they receive, know that you have provided an older child and their siblings with a permanent “anchor” in your community, somewhere they can return to in times of need and times of celebration and, best of all, someone to share it with—you!

Response by Robyn Weiser, NC Kids Adoption & Foster Care Network.

If you have a question about foster care or adoption in North Carolina, please e-mail [email protected]. We’ll do our best to respond to your question either in a direct reply or in a future issue of this newsletter.

Copyright 2009 Jordan Institute for Families