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Brotherly (and Sisterly) Love

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

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.

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.

María R. Gómez is an assistant commissioner for the Minnesota Department of Human Services.

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