There are approximately 3,900 sibling groups in foster care in the state. While considering opening your home to not only one new kiddo but more than one can seem daunting, there is an incredible benefit (both for you as a parent and for the siblings).
The Shead family adopted twin brothers last year through The Settlement Home, and while they have experienced some challenges (typical for all parents), they have also seen great joy and success since the boys joined their family.
The Sheads noticed that the boys spent a lot of time worrying about each other and less time focusing on being themselves and allowing for personal growth. Additionally, the boys had developed a communication shorthand with each other that excluded others around them. The Sheads worked as a family to retrain their communications skills and model appropriate verbal expression. As with parenting multiple biological children, there is an increased need for attention and energy that the Sheads learned to manage. There is always a balance between family time, sibling time and one-on-one time.
“Each kid deserves one-on-one time. Each kid deserves their questions answered, their appointments made and their needs met. That takes substantial effort when they are both high energy, and has resulted in a reshuffling of our other priorities to enable that to take place.”
Growing a family by multiples means the kids have built-in playmates. Parents do not have to solely rely on scheduling play dates for social interaction with peers; there are playmates at home, too.
Siblings are also loyal to each other. Having a sibling (or two or three) provides continuity for the children after the trauma of being moved away from their biological family. The Shead boys have the same experiences and are able to understand each other and their reactions accordingly: The Sheads saw their boys stick up for each other on the playground, at school and at home. As a parent, it is helpful to know that emotionally, the siblings have been through the same life experiences. Supporting them and blending as a new family becomes easier knowing their shared trauma.
“It is heartening to see that the boys have a sense of found safety with each other in a way that a single kid moving into a totally new scenario might not have.”
The Sheads not only increased the size of their family, but they also found the need for a larger vehicle and larger home after adopting the boys.
“While not strictly necessary, our ability to secure additional space will bring a degree of comfort that we did not realize was advisable until we had lived in those circumstances for some time.”
Parenting, whether biological or foster/adoptive, is not always easy. Having a support system for both the kiddos and the parents is key to a healthy and successful family. We encourage each of the families that we license to be comfortable asking for help and to identify those people in their lives who will provide a safety net to support their family through the process of raising children. Families can connect with other foster/adoptive families, a faith group or their own family members and friends to receive help.
“The level of support has been great-not only from The Settlement Home but also from our peers we met through the trainings and various nonprofit groups that have provided help and perspective on where we are, what issues are age-appropriate and what issues are specific to being a foster parent. The benefits available to the kids have also been surprisingly useful, from free admission to local Pre-K3 and Pre-K programs to the in-state tuition benefit down the road, which mitigate some of the financial burdens we have to deal with in the short term.”
Opening your home to new children is both rewarding and challenging. The Sheads have a great analogy to explain the shift that takes place.
“Consider the last (or hypothetical) time that you joined a team at work that was already established, picked up an extremely dense T.V. show mid-season, or started reading a book midway through. There is a narrative in progress with a sibling group that is valid despite being unfamiliar, and dynamics are in play that are both obvious and subtle. This is what it will be like adding an already-established family group to your own, and it will require some flexibility in aligning your life to theirs in a way that is harmonious to all involved. It also provides good insight into what the kids have to go through, for as hard as it is for a new parent to adapt to their ongoing family dynamic, that is the exact challenge that the kids have when adapting to your home as well.”
The need for foster and adoptive families is great. With more than 29,000 children, including 3,900 sibling groups in foster care in the state of Texas, we all can play a part to provide stability and permanence to them. If you feel like fostering or adopting is right for your family, we would love to talk to you about your options. If fostering or adopting is not a good fit for you right now, you can still support foster and adoptive families by providing respite care (babysitting), cooking meals for new families or volunteering your time to support children in foster care. Visit our website to learn more about how you can get involved and make a difference in the life of a child. Settlementhome.org/foster