I remember the first time I experienced the power of a sibling bond between two children in foster care. I went to give my new foster daughter a banana and without hesitation she held out her hand as if she wanted another one. I gave her a second and watched as she quickly ran to her sister and gave one to her before she bit into her own.
She was 2.
I was suddenly overcome with the heartbreaking realization that these children had taken care of each other before they came to me. Their bond wasn't strong because of their love for each other; it was because of their need. That message only got more clear as the days passed and their bond to each other grew.
During my eight-week course of foster parent training, I remember thinking the instructors were crazy to suggest that we even think about taking more than one child at a time. My husband and I had only been married two short years so we didn't want to overdo it. One child was enough! Then a week before Christmas in 2012, we got a call that there were two little girls in the shelter in Oklahoma City who needed a home. We bought a minivan that day. Three weeks later, their infant brother joined us. The following November, another sister came along. Another sister came a year after that. (And then there were FIVE!!!) A month ago, our family of seven became permanent through adoption and I often think back to I those training classes and why the instructors urged us to consider sibling placements. They knew how much the children needed their brothers and sisters.
Every day I observe these tiny people in my home and their interactions astound me. They listen to each other, they fight with each other, they pray with each other. They don't know how to be apart. They need to be together. They deserve to be together. There is nothing that can compare to the natural bond siblings have. In foster care especially, siblings rely on each other to feel safe, secure, and loved. When bonded siblings are able to be placed together, they thrive. They know another person understands them. They know another person came from the same pace they did. I have seen these bonds between each of my children, and I believe with all my heart that had they been placed in different homes, my children would feel very lost in this world. I am grateful every day that, like my instructors urged, I was crazy enough to take on siblings…all five of them.
[Note: There are situations when siblings cannot be placed together, such as when two children can be a danger to one another. These situations are given special consideration, and ultimately those making the decisions to separate siblings are doing so with the children's best interests in mind.]
Carrie is a stay-at-home mom of five who is blogging about her foster care experiences for MetroFamily. Learn more about her and our other bloggers here and check out all our foster care resources here.