Vol. 14, No. 1 • November 2009

Honoring and Maintaining Sibling Connections

Joseph, age 7

My sister always tells me that she loves me. Jayden is the best sister in the world to me. She shares her toys and her pony with me because I don’t like my pony.

My sister is only three years old, but she has a big heart with me in it. Jayden is braver than me—she is not scared of the dark like me. When I was left alone in a big house all I had was my sister to keep me company till someone returned. I love her, even if sometimes I want peace and quiet.

I would be lost without her.

Joseph’s letter won first prize in the current writing contest, for which he was awarded $100.

My brothers live far away. Each has his own career and family. Due to distance we don’t see each other very often, but not a day goes by that I do not think about them. I feel a deep connection to them that goes beyond words. My siblings are part of who I am.

If you have brothers or sisters, I think you will know what I mean. The influence of siblings on our lives is hard to exaggerate.

Historically, the child welfare system has not always done a great job acknowledging and protecting sibling relationships. Fortunately, that’s changing. In North Carolina and across the nation child welfare policy and practice increasingly emphasize preserving and maintaining sibling relationships of children in foster care whenever possible (Shlonsky, et al., 2005).

Yet for many children, foster care still means being separated from their brothers and sisters. National studies suggest that up to 75% of children in foster care are separated from at least one of their siblings (Casey Family Programs, 2003; CASCW, 2000).

This issue of Fostering Perspectives is about honoring and maintaining sibling connections. We lead off by bringing you the voices of children in care responding to the question, “Why are your siblings important to you?” Elsewhere in this issue you’ll hear from many others, including:

  • A birth parent whose sister stepped in to care for her children until they could return home.
  • A man who found his sisters many years after they were separated by foster care.
  • Adoptive parents who thought their family was complete until they learned their daughter had a brother who needed them.

I hope that as you read this issue you will think about what you can do—as a foster parent, kinship parent, adoptive parent, or child welfare professional—to honor and preserve sibling connections for the children in your lives. —John McMahon, Editor

Additional essays from kids in care can be found by clicking here.

Download or print a pdf of this entire issue

What You Can Do to Strengthen Sibling Connections
Her Love Kept Me Going
My Sister Helped Us All When My Kids Went into Care
A Place for Michael
We Thought Our Family Was Complete Until We Learned Our Daughter's Brother Needed Us

Tips for Reducing Sibling Rivalry

Maintaining Connections with Siblings
Separated as Kids, Finally Reunited
Debunking Common Myths about Sibling Placement
A Reader Asks: Advice for a Family Considering Adopting and Older Sibling Group
A Message from the President of the NC Foster and Adoptive Parent Association

Books on the Nightstand (book review)

Quick Reference for Parents: Autism Spectrum Disorders
Kids Pages: Why My Siblings Are Important
Resources and Training Opportunities for Families Caring for Children with Special Needs
Realistic Expectations Key to Positive Outcomes in Special Needs Adoptions
Ambigouous Loss Can Haunt Foster and Adopted Children
Come Home to SaySo

Resources for Supporting Children Exposed to Domestic Violence

Help Us Find Families for These Children
Have You Heard about NC Reach?
Writing Contest

References cited in this issue

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