One of the most trying things for kids in foster care is separation from their siblings. Siblings are the relationships that we carry with us well into our adulthood; siblings are our confidants and sometimes rivals as we’re growing up. While keeping siblings together is, of course, tantamount, sometimes it’s just beyond the available resources to place a sibling group together. Because this is all too normal a situation, especially for larger sibling groups, foster families need to be proactive in keeping sibling relationships relevant and healthy. Here are four ways of keeping siblings in touch:
Expedite visits beyond what workers require.
Required visits are the bare minimum and oftentimes siblings only see each other during required parent visits. Depending on what the case looks like, that means siblings may only see each other once a month. In some cases, foster children have better relationships with their siblings than they do with their parents and oftentimes there is a sense of “us together versus the world” among sibling groups that shouldn’t be dismissed. Make the other foster families that have your child’s siblings a part of your family life. Go out to dinner together, invite them to family functions, and arrange visits beyond what caseworkers or agencies may require.
Phone and Skype calls are important, too.
When you can’t get together, don’t forget that phone and Skype calls can help ease loneliness and help maintain relationships. Don’t discount even short phone calls between younger siblings. Zoom and Skype calls are far more commonplace now and even just playing together over a video call can strengthen sibling relationships.
Older children can play games together.
Gaming systems like PlayStation and Xbox have chat functions and older kids can play almost any genre of game together. If both families have a gaming system and internet, this is a great way for older siblings to spend some quality time together. You may need to watch ratings and supervise, but gaming together is also a great way to facilitate a virtual visit and it’s easy to schedule; no one has to leave home.
Attend sibling’s school and sporting events.
If a sibling is in a recital at school or plays for a school sports team, then these are perfect opportunities to visit together. Communicate with the other foster families and try to get schedules of siblings’ events with school or church. It can mean the world for a foster child to see a sister or a brother cheering them on!
Sibling relationships are some of the most important relationships that we carry with us through all stages of our lives. Foster children endure unavoidable trauma when moving and, if they are separated, then we should be doing all we can to keep those relationships strong and healthy. Contact us if you have any questions about maintaining sibling relationships or about foster care in general.