Brotherly (and Sisterly) Love in Foster Care

When the courts place children in foster care, siblings have only each other to turn to and count on.

Two siblings in foster care stand outside together

Jesse and Cole are twin brothers. They laugh, they wrestle, they play video games together. They call each other names, and at times, they argue. They lived with their chemically dependent mother until they were 8 years old. Now they're in foster care, waiting for someone to adopt them.

Tawanda, Terry, Thomas, and Tanesha are siblings ranging in ages from 10 to 15. They skateboard together, eat pizza together, and watch out for each other. They're living in a foster home, waiting for a family to adopt them—all four of them.

These are just two examples of siblings in the foster-care system waiting for families. They are brothers and sisters who comfort each other, celebrate with each other, hold onto each other, encourage each other. Their bond is closer than that with parents or between spouses, some researchers say, because sibling relationships last longer and are often more influential.

[“Deciding to Adopt Older Siblings from Foster Care”]

Siblings need each other—especially those in foster care. These children have been traumatized, most often by abuse and neglect. They have undergone physical and psychological pain that no one should ever have to endure. They have experienced educational, nutritional, and emotional neglect. Their hopes and dreams have been shattered by the people they expected to love and nurture them most. And their siblings have suffered right along with them.

So, when the courts terminate their parents rights and place children in foster care, siblings have only each other to turn to and count on. Their brothers and sisters know exactly what they've gone through, and they provide a special support system that no one else can.

Siblings under state guardianship need each other and need adoptive families who are willing to adopt not just one child but two, three, four, or more at a time. Together, siblings and adoptive parents can make their families work in a safe, loving, nurturing home.


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Just the Facts

According to the latest statistics by the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS), over 437,000 children in foster care are waiting to be adopted. Many of these waiting children are siblings. Here's how they help each other—and why they should be adopted together.
  • Siblings have a shared—often difficult—past and can provide a support system that no one else can.
  • Brothers and sisters can help reduce the negative effects from the loss and separation of their parents.
  • Separating siblings puts each child at greater risk of emotional disturbances and difficulties in school.
  • For some children, separation from siblings may cause greater stress than separation from their own parents, particularly those children whose parents were absent both physically and emotionally.
  • Siblings miss each other. Most adults who were adopted as older children return to agencies to search, not for their birth parents, but for siblings.
  • Keeping siblings together improves their self-esteem.
  • Siblings prefer to be together.
For more information on siblings in foster care, call your county social service agency or visit the North American Council on Adoptable Children Web site:

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