Biological children have unique perspectives on foster, adoptive brothers and sisters

Published 4:58 pm Friday, December 8, 2017

Building bonds

Editor’s note: This is the third in a four-part series by Olivia Talbott looking at the need for foster care and adoption in central Kentucky and what it’s like for foster and adoptive parents. In order to protect the privacy of children in the foster system and their biological parents, the names of the biological children quoted in this story have been changed.


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Contributing writer

When a family commits to fostering to adopt, it isn’t only the parents who are affected. Their biological children also take on a new identity as a foster sibling. They experience a throng of emotions, ranging from excitement to dread and sometimes back again. Biological children’s lives and futures are shaped by the adopted siblings they gain. Here are some of their stories.  


“I was 6 or 7 and I had always wanted to have siblings,” said 17-year-old Rose, who was an only child before she gained adopted siblings.

A brother and sister sibling group had lived with Rose and her family for about a year and it looked like it might become permanent.

“Then they left,” Rose said. “And it was really hard.”

The boy and girl were returned to their biological family. This loss is an inevitable part of foster care, and the pain is just as real as losing a biological sibling, according to Rose.

In Rose’s case, it meant losing the only two siblings that she had ever known.  

“I had finally had siblings,” she said. “Then they had to leave.”

“I didn’t understand all there was to know,” she added.  

Being a foster sibling requires making a sacrifice, according to Rose.

But after a period of time had passed, Rose and the sibling group were reunited, and this time it was permanent — her parents adopted the sibling group.

Two more foster children soon joined Rose’s family and she became the oldest of five.

Getting used to a new family dynamic can be challenging; Rose recommends coming to grips with that early on.

“It’s different — you have to learn who they are,” she said. “You don’t get to see them as a baby and you don’t know how they grew up.”

These are the questions that can go unanswered in the fabric of foster families, according to Rose.

“We have the hotheads and the quiet ones and we’ve embraced that,” Rose said. “Realizing that they’re not like me is important.”   

“I don’t think a lot of people think or talk about foster care,” Rose said. “I think some people do it for the wrong reasons, but I think more people need to know about it because there are so many kids who need help.”  

Rose said she is interested in fostering to adopt when she has a family of her own.

“It’s a good experience,” she said. “I got to see the situation my siblings were in and where they might be today if they hadn’t come to us. You became a home for a child who has no home.”


“I always wanted a sister and I was really excited,” said Callie, now an adult, remembering her emotions as a 9-year-old embarking on the journey of being a foster sibling.  

“For me they were like baby dolls,” she added. “I dressed them up and carried them around.”

“The first two we had for four years,” Callie said. “We knew that there was always a chance of them going back to their parents. But I was really upset when they left.”

For a child, it’s hard to understand how to hold these new siblings loosely, without getting too attached, according to Callie.

“All my siblings were real,” Callie said. “I don’t think I grasped the temporary aspect of foster care, because for a while it looked like it was permanent.”  

“I think in the end I got too attached,” Callie said. “But as they say, ‘I’d rather have loved and lost than not loved at all.’”

Callie recommended an open-arm approach to foster siblings, while not putting up barriers, because that would only hurt the foster children more.

“You have to go into it knowing it’s going to hurt, “said Callie. “My job was to show them normal.”

Showing them what a normal family looks like, feels like and acts like is just what every foster child needs to redeem the hurt of their previous life, Callie said.

“We took a little break after the first two, because it was traumatizing,” Callie said, “then we did emergency foster care. My mom and I were a team and it was our project.”

“I think it’s important to make the biological children feel like they have a choice in the decision to foster,” Callie said. “My parents did a really good job with that.”

In spite of the loss and hardship that fostering presented, Callie’s experience only reaffirmed her belief that her parents did the very best that they could, rather than undermining her relationship with them.

“I was never a joint parent,” Callie said. “My parents were the ones up in the night and not me — my job was to be a sibling, not a parent.”

Being exposed to a world that was cold and dark at a young age expanded Callie’s horizon and sparked a desire to help be a remedy.

“One little boy had burns and I was able to dress his wounds,” Callie said. “That is when I became interested in the medical side of things.”

Today, Callie is an ICU nurse.

According to Callie, her experiences as a foster sibling have not scarred her, but have shaped who she has become.

“I think people are cautious to foster because of their own kids,” Callie said. “But unless you’ve tried it then you don’t know if it’s going to work.”

Callie sees no benefit in complaining about the problem unless you are going to be a part of the solution.

“I often hear people complain about how bad things are with the foster care need,” Callie said. “I ask ‘is your home open?’”


“I thought it’d be cool to have a sister so I wasn’t an only child,” 12-year-old Kate said of how she felt at 7. “I didn’t even have any cousins.”

Kate’s parents began fostering to adopt and Kate found the little sister that she had always wanted.

“The first time we met her, I gave her the picture that I made and some candy,” Kate said. “When she came, I didn’t like it because I had to share all my stuff. It took a little adjusting at first. Having to start sharing was the most hard. And keeping track of whose turn it was.”

Kate said having a foster or adoptive sibling may be “hard at first,” but “then it gets easier.”

“I wish more people fostered children,” Kate added. “Because there are a lot of kids without homes.”  


“My parents were fostering long before I was born,” Nick said, clarifying that they took a break when he came along.

“I was 7 when I met my foster siblings, and a week later we adopted them,” Nick said.

“It went really fast,” he added.

That’s when life changed — Nick instantly became the oldest of three.   

“It’s fun when I say that’s my brother and my sister,” Nick said. “Because we look nothing alike.”

It’s hard for people to wrap their minds around different skin tones and hair colors in one family, but to Nick, it only makes it more fun.

“I imagine that having adopted siblings is no different than having biological siblings,” Nick said. “You bully, harass and mess with them, but you also love them and would do anything for them.”

“As the naive child, I was expecting them to do everything I did,” but that wasn’t the case according to Nick, because he was into trains and his brother was into sports.

“I don’t remember much before they came,” Nick said. “But I definitely remember having more money to spend. I felt drained when my parents had to cut back on what they were giving me.”

“Later on my brother and I learned that we could both ask for one big gift to split,” Nick said. “Then I could rip him off by using it more,” he added with a grin.

Shortly after Nick’s family dynamic changed with adoption, they welcomed another foster child into their home.

“There was a language barrier,” Nick said, but they learned how to communicate by playing games.

“As soon as we’d get in the car I would say ‘one’, my brother would say ‘two’ and he would say ‘turd,’” Nick said with a laugh. “It was really cute.”

Nick’s new little brother couldn’t stay, however. It was hard for Nick to understand why he had to leave when his other two siblings could stay permanently.

“When he left, it was harder than anything,” Nick said. “It was like losing a brother.”

It was not Nick’s family’s last foster placement, and not all children were a favorable experience.

“Kids are great” Nick said. “I love working with babies and small children because they know nothing but the truth. They don’t lie yet and try to deceive you.”

Foster children can nonetheless cause a disruption in home life, according to Nick.

“I’d be at home and they would constantly be getting in trouble,” he said. “They just didn’t know how things worked in our home, but it’s like expecting a 2-year-old to be potty trained.”

These difficulties made Nick reassess his stance on foster care.

“My parents would say, ‘we’ve been asked to foster again,’ and my first reaction was ‘dang it, not again,’” Nick said. “For a while, I hated the idea of all foster kids. I thought foster care should not be a thing.”

Besides behavioral issues, hygiene issues can also be a factor with foster kids, according to Nick.

“The most common issue is that they show up with lice,” Nick said. “It’s from neglect because their parents aren’t taking care of them. I remember picking up two kids with my mom and one of their backpacks was covered in lice. That backpack didn’t leave the garage.”  

“There was that one foster child that soured us,” Nick said. “It’s like having a bad plate of spaghetti that turns you off to every plate you eat after that.”

Then one day Nick’s mom came to pick him up and he noticed a McDonalds cup sitting in the backseat of the car.

“We typically keep our cars really clean,” Nick said. “So I was curious and turned around and saw a little girl sipping her Sprite.”

“She wouldn’t say a word,” he added.

That’s when he met his new foster sister and life changed for Nick’s family yet again.

“She just fit in so well from day one,” Nick said. “So I told my parents that they had better get rid of her or adopt her, because we were all getting too attached.”

So they adopted her.

Today Nick is a college student pursuing a profession of being a psychiatrist, with the goal of counseling foster families. He also wants to become a foster parent himself after completing school.

“Once the judge hits the gavel, the courtroom erupts and the judge reads off their new name,” Nick said. “It’s like a hallmark movie moment where the two main characters become engaged in front of the Christmas tree.”

“Adoption is a legal construct, but to me it’s personal,” Nick said. “Kids are people and you can’t abandon them just because they are younger than you, but you’ve got to take care of them.”