Siblings Matter, Part 1
By Lynn Price
Siblings ... you fight, argue and tease. Yet, you call, protect, stand up for, learn from each other, and celebrate being best friends. Siblings ... often taken for granted yet most oftentimes your longest relationships in life.
Imagine if you didn’t have the gifts of sibling rivalry and sibling connection. A large majority, (some statistics say 75%), of children are separated from at least one sibling when placed in foster care.
The children are grieving the loss of their parents, and now the loss of their siblings who many times take the role of parent when there is strife in the family. The older kids may lose their sense of identity and worry about siblings they took care of every day. The younger kids may sense instability living with strangers.
Siblings have an impact on the entire life cycle. In early childhood, they are companions and playmates. There is influence on social and cognitive learning – skills of helping, sharing and cooperating. In elementary years, there may be interactions with siblings that extend beyond home and influence interactions with peers. In adolescence, some siblings experience an ebb and flow of independence and individuality. The relationship may be taken for granted and there may be space, yet there is comfort in knowing they exist. In adulthood, while their "own families" may take priority, siblings may seek guidance, support and sharing from each other. As elders, siblings most notably, become companions again, sometimes even living together when their own kids move on.
While there are many reasons brothers and sisters are separated, the reality is one day they will be together whether physically, and/or mentally as siblings. The foster care journey does have an end! And, as an adult adoptee, many wonder not only about birth parents, but siblings as well.
Some people assume young siblings who reunite are finding each other. The reality is most brothers and sisters live in the same communities with different foster families. They even may go to the same schools or religious institutions. They may see each other at the supervised visits.
The great news is care-providing teams are understanding and taking notice of the significance of the sibling bond. Whether through the growing number of states who have sibling bills of rights or legislation featuring sibling placements and visitation, individuals and groups are finding ways to honor the sibling bond for everyday activities.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if when youth left foster care, instead of remembering the strife before and through the transition, young people remembered the fun, memorable times shared with siblings? They recalled feeling the normalcy of having a sibling?
Even when they don’t know it, siblings want to be together. They may sabotage the relationship in fear, yet they just want to be ... as individuals and as siblings. Their lives, connections and their voices matter. Let's help children in foster care maintain and nuture connections to their siblings.
Lynn Price is a former youth in care, foster parent, adoptive parent and founder/president emeritus of Camp To Belong, International. She has received numerous accolades including the Points of Light President’s Service Award presented by President Clinton and the Oprah Winfrey’s Angel Network Use Your Life Award. As a professional speaker and published author, she gives keynotes celebrating the child welfare community and workshops about sibling connection. Her books include Real Belonging, Give Siblings Their Right to Reunite® and Vision For A Change, A Social Entrepreneur’s Insights From the Heart. www.lynnprice.com – firstname.lastname@example.org