This month is typically a time for us to be thankful and count the (hopefully) many blessings in our lives.
However, the reality is that some families are struggling and it’s difficult to see what the next day might bring. For example, the children and their siblings in the foster care system might wonder if or when they will have a place to call home — and if they will be with their brothers or sisters.
For some siblings, being placed together isn’t in their best interest, but for most of the groups, finding a home together is what they need.
In fact, according to the 2015 factsheet “Ten Realities of Sibling Adoption” by AdoptUSKids, the National Resource Center for Recruitment and Retention of Foster and Adoptive Parents, “Research indicates that when siblings are placed together, they experience many emotional benefits, fewer moves, and a lower risk for failed placements.”
In talking with the agencies and the families for this month’s story about sibling adoption, it’s clear the goal is to keep kids together — and there are lots of successes. Unfortunately, there is still a stigma associated with kids in foster care, one that even can impact the way the children view themselves.
“Removing children from their parents and placing them in a foreign environment to live with strangers is very traumatic for the child,” says Lori O’Brien, administrator for Children & Adult Services at Lake County Job and Family Services. “There is a stigma connected to foster children, whether expressed by others or incorporated into the beliefs of the child…such as no one wants me, I am not lovable, I was not good enough, etc.”
“The community can try to make them feel as normal as possible,” says Beverly Torres, Senior Manager for Permanency Support, Cuyahoga County Division of Children and Family Services. “Children in foster care are just like anyone else. It’s not their fault that they entered the system.”
Area agencies want people in the community to know that they can help these kids.
“Community members who meet a child (in foster care) need to understand that the child just wants to be accepted, loved and not judged,” O’Brien says. “Including them in normal childhood activities and building their self-esteem is very important.”
The big factor is to provide a home where they can feel safe and get all their needs met — emotionally, mentally and physically. Foster families will always be needed as long as children are entering into the system.
“Nothing can prepare you to accept children into your home,” says Jennifer Wenderoth, director of social services at The Bair Foundation, a Christian foster care organization in Kent and Cleveland. “You will question, ‘Why did I do this?’ You will find it to be the most rewarding and challenging, sacrificial thing you have ever done. Children are being hurt, children are suffering and you are the person they need to help them recover and be successful in life.”
During this season of gratitude, it’s a good time to think about giving these kids something extra to be thankful for.