National Adoption Week – Adopting Siblings

Eleven years ago Mr D and I left our home, just the two of us, and two hours later returned with two children, Jamie and Rose.  Jamie and Rose are birth siblings. National Adoption Week 2014 has the theme of siblings.  It can be a week which polarises adopters, prospective adopters, agencies and local authorities.  Unsupported families living in great difficulty don’t always appreciate the marketing of National Adoption Week (a gloss job?).  Those seeking families for children don’t always appreciate those in difficulty talking openly about their difficulties (pissing on the parade?). In the interests of balance and honesty here are my thoughts about National Adoption Week and about adopting a brother and sister in particular.

1.  Keeping siblings together is thought to be a universally good thing.  Each situation is different.  Some siblings thrive together and some don’t.  The impact upon children of early neglect complicates sibling relationships greatly.  This is under-appreciated by many.

2.  I am still in a state of flux about whether Jamie and Rose should have been placed together.  They needed to maintain contact, but sometimes living together and sharing a family has been very challenging for them.  They’ve only recently become able to be in a room together without the presence of either Mr D or me.

3.  Families with adopted siblings should have support around them which takes account of the complex sibling dynamics of attachment and trauma.

4.  Being an adoptive parent has on occasion brought me to my knees and close to breakdown, but it has also taught me to appreciate small and precious moments.

5.  I would do it all again.

6.  The difficulties we’ve experienced would have been greatly alleviated if the services around us had been better quality and more understanding of our needs.

7.   Our family life is very different to other families around us, but this isn’t always necessarily a negative thing.  (Sometimes it is though.)

8.  Children who have experienced neglect and/or abuse require a different style of parenting from healthily raised children.  Not a bit different.  Very different.  Families need much more help with this than they are given but knowledge and training around therapeutic parenting is improving.

9.  With hindsight I’d be much more savvy.  I would talk to many more agencies and Local Authorities and opt for the one that offers the best long term post adoption support.  This is my number one tip for prospective adopters.

10.  Issues around lack of support aside, I remain convinced that done well (meaning with honesty, humanity and professionalism), adoption can be transformative for children (and their families).  It offers something with other options don’t find easy to achieve, and that’s permanence.

Adopting brothers and/or sisters is not for the faint-hearted.  It will change your life in ways you never imagined possible.  It may bring you to the very edge of what you thought you were capable of and then push you further.  It will cause you to see the world differently from other people, which can be great (‘I’m a much better person for having adopted our children’) but also not so great (‘where have my old friends gone?’).  It may also open up your life to a wealth of new experiences and boundless love and unexpected glorious moments. This is my experience*.

*other experiences are also available

21 thoughts on “National Adoption Week – Adopting Siblings

  1. Sarah - The Puffin Diaries

    Definitely not for the faint hearted, only the brave and strong, that’s us (you, me and relevant others.) xx

    1. admin Post author

      And the ‘I didn’t quite know what I was getting into’ (definitely me) xx

  2. Grace Evans

    Well said. You’ve captured it so well, as usual. It definitely changes you, humbles you, strips you down and hopefully leaves you more open than before. In a good way.

  3. Nichola Wood

    we are 2 years in and have been to hell and back! Excellent pre and post adoptive support received, would not change a thing and would do it all again in a heartbeat.

  4. Sue Castree

    My husband and I adopted two full siblings, brother and sister and it’s our 2nd anniversary today!!! It’s been tough but also VERY rewarding.

  5. Juliet

    A great piece, to the point and very similar to our experience. Thanks for that. We have support now but we pay a high price for it.

    1. admin Post author

      I’m sorry to hear that. The support should be there when you need it and not at a high price. Thanks for reading.

  6. Mary Carden

    As an adoption specialist/ therapist and someone who has over a 40 year period placed more than 100 children in adoptive families – some in sib groups of 2, 3, 4 and one lot of 5! I know there are no easy answers. I remind myself every day that I am on a learning curve still. Every child is different and every family has certain qualities- the magic is getting the one to match with the other. Never ever stop believing that things will be alright in time, but do ask for help. If its not forthcoming tell your Social Worker it’s not good enough and demand a specialist in sibling placements to help. There are a range of interventions – play therapy, theraplay, art therapy, filial therapy. Get a good assessment of the siblings attachment before you take them on. Ask for a detailed Paed assessment – if they are delayed – how delayed? never accept terms that are too general ask for the evidence to back up a description – so many children are described on a CPR which is so out of date they no longer seem to be at all as described in the paperwork. I can’t tell you how often I have heard adopters tell me that the children they have placed are nothing like what was described/ written on the CPR.
    Glad you are sticking in there – best of luck

  7. Liz

    We adopted 3 children ages 6, 10 and 12, three years ago. They are wonderful kids but it has been very challenging. But so far we have survived!

  8. adoptive mummy

    Hi, we adopted our sibling group of two almost two years ago. We’ve been really lucky and have experienced very few problems. The boys settled brilliantly and love the bones of each other. I guess I just wanted to share that having a sibling group doesn’t mean that it will be really hard. They each have off days (what children don’t) and transition is tough for our eldest but we haven’t experienced significant difficulties.
    I hope everyone who is having a tough time gets all the support they need x

  9. SArah

    We have a sibling group of 3 boys – adopted 10 years ago. Share completely your thoughts on uncertainty about the right thing. Their need to dominate each other to ensure if things break down they are not the first to be kicked out is exhausting. Adolescence adds a new dimension of course- how do you detach in a safe way if you have never felt attached- and how can you still feel safe when 2 other siblings are desperate to attach more..etc etc….

    I learn from day to day. Would love to know what ideal post adoption support should be as would want to fight to get that commissioned….but remain uncertIn….

  10. SArah

    We have a sibling group of 3 boys – adopted 10 years ago. Share completely your thoughts on uncertainty about the right thing. Their need to dominate each other to ensure if things break down they are not the first to be kicked out is exhausting. Adolescence adds a new dimension of course- how do you detach in a safe way if you have never felt attached- and how can you still feel safe when 2 other siblings are desperate to attach more..etc etc….

    I learn from day to day. Would love to know what ideal post adoption support should be as would want to fight to get that commissioned….but remain uncertIn….

  11. Stepmum to sibling boys

    I found Sarah’s post really interesting.
    I see similar issues in taking on two stepsons 10 years ago. I really identified with her phrase about their need to dominate each other so that if things break down they won’t be the first to be kicked out. The boys’ father and I have always felt exasperated and worn out with their inability to be around each other without bickering and fighting, to the point where even though they are here at least 50% of the time, we look forward to peaceful silence when they are not here. We have never understood their constant need to get one over on each other. Each one of them has however been kicked out by their mother during the past year. Now the penny has dropped and we might start to be able to address this behaviour – though at 16 and 13 it may just be too late:-((

    1. SArah

      It’s never too late. Children’s ( and adult brains to some degree) remain plastic and malleable. The trick is however to find a way into that part of the brain that has been cut off – for their own ‘safety’ – and rewire it back in to the main bigger part. Easier said than done and will not be instantaneous – a bit like eating broccoli you have to taste it 9 times before you realise you like it – an equally exhausting and demoralising lesson I suspect you have already been through!

      I tend to try and plant a seed of an idea in their brains ( as though it’s my idea and nothing to do with them- otherwise they’ll just disagree!)…….’ Oh I think I might have realised why you want to …..( insert what you wil – kill you brother/ nick his iPod/ bash his door down etcetera we’ve seen it all!)…… think we might love him more than you. I obviously haven’t done this right – I haven’t shown you that all three of you are important. I need to find a way to demonstrate that so you don’t have to show me in this way. I’m so stupid and sorry.’ then hit them with a ‘ love bomb’ – only just subscribed to Sally’s blog so not sure if this has already been discussed.

      They are normally so dumbfounded they look as me as though I am some crazed hysterical mother from crazy town…..but stops the behaviour…even if followed up by stomping to their room I sort of hope they ponder a bit….

      As I say it doesn’t work all the time and think ( hope) the trick is to be consistent. If I can engage them will try and follow up next day with some sort of discussion about how I wonder whether they are worried that our love might run out and try and reassure them that would be impossible although must be frightening to feel that way…blah de blah de blah……

      anyway you wil probably all now think I’m a crazy mother from crazy town so will stop typing but hope that it helps someone – especially step mother to sibling boys.

  12. Adoptive Dad

    A real interesting read, we also adopted 3 siblings little over a year ago now and can relate to a number of the points raised in your blog. We are very fortunate that our children are all very close and keeping them together has been absolutely the right thing for them. Often we feel there is a family within a family and if it helps them both now and in the years to come when they fully understand what has happened then I am all for it. When we adopted our children (1,3 & 4) there had been a lot of discussions about separating the 2 older siblings and the youngest as finding a home for all 3 had been very difficult and with the eldest having been in foster care / relief care for nearly 3 yrs it was deemed important to move into some sort of permanent home as quickly as possible for her.

    We are very lucky that the bond between us was instant even our initial introduction phase was reduced to 4 days as our children were so ready to move. I only re-call 1 incident where we have noticed any fall out from the children s background affecting there time with us although we are prepared for some difficult questions in future years.

    Raising adoptive children is I agree worlds apart from biological children and the parenting methods we have to use often get questioned by others. The old saying of walking a mile in someone else’s shoes is very apt in these conversations.

    I am fortunate to be able to talk about a very smooth and successful placement and am aware many others that we have stayed in touch with from our prep course have found it a very different experience to us. No doubt the reason I have been invited to go back and talk at a number of adoption events as well as countless radio and press releases this week for adoption week.

    I feel truly blessed to have our children and wouldn’t want it to be any other way.

    Good luck and congratulations to all those “Forever Families” reflecting on a special time this adoption week.

  13. Prospective adopters


    Just reading your book as we are looking to adopt siblings in the next few months. I’m finding it really helpful and can’t wait to discuss it with my wife.

    As well as asking about post-adoption support would there be any other questions that in hindsight you wish you had asked?

    1. admin Post author

      I think in hindsight I would have asked a lot more about the children’s early experiences, rather than find out bits and pieces here and there, which we stitched together for ourselves. It’s difficult to get this after the adoption order. Post adoption support is crucial though – who will provide it, what does it look like and for how long does it last?
      Thanks for reading and good luck.

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