I was reminded again tonight that siblings matter. Hearing the squeals, giggles, and belly laughs from siblings in foster care echo through the restaurant as they have a "sibling visit" gave me a feeling of great joy and sadness simultaneously. The extreme high's and low's of behavior and emotions were erased for two hours as these siblings were together once again and all is right in their world. Most siblings in foster care are not placed together. There simply is not space available in most foster homes to have more than one or two siblings together. And despite our best efforts as foster parents or agencies to recognize the importance of the sibling bond and create these moments of "visitation," it cannot duplicate the stability of living with the one continual, trusted, meaningful relationship that these children have had in their lives -- the siblings were the family unit. They are the ones that often clung together and cared for one another when their biological parents could not. When children come into care, there is a reason to separate them for a time from biological parents who cannot care for them, but the separation of siblings is often nothing more than a logistical necessity with harmful results.
So many times as a foster parent I have seen the worry, pain, and anxiety of a child when they are separated from their siblings. It is difficult for them to feel safe and at peace when they cannot see how their siblings are doing on a daily basis. It often causes defiant behaviors, creates distrust of care givers, and prevents the beginning of healing when they feel their siblings are being withheld from them. We have seen siblings travel for 5 hours round trip for a 1 hour family visit in an agency office, causing children to miss school and all sense of "normalcy" in their life. We have seen children moved from home to home whenever a place becomes available for one or two siblings to be placed together, causing further instability in their foster care placements and preventing the implementation of needed behavioral, emotional and academic supports. We've heard the prayers at night of children hoping their brothers and sisters are safe, or that they could be together soon.
It is our goal at Joy Meadows to create homes where siblings can be placed together in one single-family. And if not within the same home, at a minimum they can be neighbors at Joy Meadows. Siblings matter. We need to show these children that we really do believe that and create a way for them to be together. The laughter, hugs, and hope of being with a brother or sister should happen for more than 2 hours in a fast food restaurant or agency office at a "sibling visit."