Ask AF: Should We Adopt Our Child's Birth Siblings?

A mother of three seeks advice on adopting her child's birth siblings. She worries that her child will feel hurt if they don't, but also that they won't have the energy or resources to parent more children.

Q: We have adopted three children, ages five, three, and two, through foster care. We were recently contacted by our middle child’s birth mother (none of our three are biologically related). Last spring she had twins who were removed from her care, and she asked us if we’d consider adopting them. We are concerned about her and our child feeling hurt if we don’t say yes to these birth siblings, but we hadn’t planned to adopt again and are not sure we could handle two more, especially nine-month-olds. What should we do? Have others faced a similar situation?

Members of respond:

“Our son was the last of six kids born to the same birth mother, and all of them were adopted by different families. We became involved when one of the families of his birth sibling realized they had taken on too much…which does happen. All of the kids were adopted fairly young and like having contact, but don’t feel sad that they are not in the same family. Every child and every family is different, so try not to put too much pressure on making the right decision; just make the best one you can.”

“We have four children adopted in two sibling pairs, and three biological children. All the adopted children came from large sibling sets, and we have been asked to consider taking birth siblings at various times, but haven’t taken any. We are very willing to keep in touch with our children’s siblings, and we do our best. The sibling bond is important—especially when the children lived together and already had a bond before they were separated. But all the babies born to one of the birth moms years after our own family was formed feel like very distant cousins. We do our best to keep track of everyone, but put most of our energy into strengthening sibling relationships among the children we are raising.”

“There is no single answer to your question, you just have to do what’s right for your family. Numerous studies have shown that, for children who enter care, the bond with their siblings is the most important connection in their life—though, I think it’s most important for older children who already have established sibling bonds. It has been beneficial for our youngest two to have a relationship with their sister. I would urge you to make every reasonable effort to help your children maintain relationships with their siblings, and also with the extended family when safety isn’t a concern.”

“One comment—there are certainly other families who would be thrilled to adopt nine-month-old twins if your family cannot take them. Do not feel guilty about that aspect.”

“You need to do what is best for your current children and your family. Only you can decide that. If you decide you can’t adopt them, I would definitely talk to the agency about your willingness to have an open relationship with the siblings. In a perfect world, I am all for sibs being together, but sometimes it is not possible. Sometimes agencies will consider a relative of yours as an adoptive home so that the children can grow up in a kinship relationship. If you are thinking of taking them, can you ask for a subsidy and use that money for a mother’s helper? Five children under age five is a lot.”

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