Adopting Siblings

Adopting a child is a big decision. For some families, adopting a sibling group is a great option. There is a great need for parents who are willing and able to adopt siblings of all ages and race.

Siblings are family, and the connection to family helps give children their identity as well as their feeling of belonging in the world. Sibling contact gives children continuity with their family even when circumstances require separation from their parents. Conversely, the loss experienced by children who must be separated from their parents because of safety or other reasons is only compounded by the loss of contact with their siblings. This bond between brothers and sisters is unique — it is the longest lasting relationship most people have, longer than the parent/child or husband/wife relationship.

The biggest benefit of adopting a sibling group is, of course, to the siblings themselves.  Often, a brother or a sister are the only real “family” that a potential adopted child has. Studies have shown the benefits of keeping adopted siblings together, and have demonstrated the negative effects of splitting siblings.

Sibling relationships are remarkably complex and deeply influential. While even children close in age do not have identical experiences growing up, they share the same upbringing. They know their family history better than anyone else, and they carry that history with them into every relationship they develop, long after family members have moved apart.

Having someone who knows them so intimately can be even more important to adoptees when they do not have strong connections to their extended adoptive families, have little or no contact with birth relatives, or have little or no knowledge of their heritage or genetic background.

And even when adoptees maintain sibling relationships through open adoptions, or connect with birth siblings later in life, it is their adoptive siblings who share first-hand knowledge of what it was like for each other growing up and can share memories as adults.

One of the advantages of adopting two or more children, particularly biological siblings, is it can ease the transition into their new family.  It can be helpful and healing for a child to remain in an adoptive home with their siblings, and often assists with the transition period. Siblings are often the child's only link to their birth family. Once placed in an adoptive home, it can be comforting and reassuring for siblings to know that they are not in this experience alone.

Sibs can be supportive to one another as they experience the trauma of a move. If there is a language or cultural barrier between the children and the new family and environment, children old enough to be verbal can take solace in being able to communicate with one another. They can also help each other retain memories and put pieces of past events together. An older sib can help clarify things for younger children. Particularly in trans-racial placements they can give each other the security of living with someone who "looks like me."

Siblings can also lessen the pressure of the forced development of a relationship with new parents. They can ease the stress by playing with one another, giving the parents and perhaps other children already in the family a chance to relax. There is something to the two are easier than one adage. Contrast this with the spotlight on a single child placed with a one or two parent family with no other children. The desperate loneliness and incredible strain of having to relate totally to strangers of another generation can only be imagined. Parents can rely on one another or on friends for support but often a newly placed child will have no one familiar in his life, except perhaps the worker who comes and goes in times trouble.

Bonding is a big issue. When adopting siblings you are adopting a child older than an infant. Reading up on bonding and attachment can ease your mind and help you get through the transition.
Make sure you are not caught in an unrealistic dream of overly high expectations? 
Can your family meet the needs of all of the children in this sibling group and survive?

How you answer these questions, may impact the lives of the children you adopt.