Have questions about adopting siblings? Join WACAP’s Family Finders Manager Jo Reed for down-to-earth Q&A about why adopting siblings is a big decision, and why it might be the right one for your family.
Q and A on Adopting Siblings
By Jo Reed, WACAP Family Finders Program Manager
I’ve had that experience that many parents of adopted children have….of navigating through the store, the kids squished together in the seat of the red plastic car attached to the front of the un-steerable grocery cart. While the little darlings poke each other and complain, a well-meaning passerby stoops to admire their round angelic faces, so different than mine. They’ve already figured out the kids are probably adopted, so they complement their way to their next burning question: “They’re so cute! … are they siblings?”
“Of course they are!” I exclaim, with a mixture of pride and exasperation. And it’s true—they love and despise one another as only siblings can. I pretend I don’t understand what this well-meaning but nosy stranger really wants to know…are they biological siblings?
I feel a little superior in my understanding that adopted siblings are siblings in every way that really matters. But sometimes, that “biological sibling” reality is of utmost importance—when children come into care as brothers and sisters who need to be adopted together.
A child who needs an adoptive family has suffered loss after loss; of safety, of parents, sometimes even of language and culture. A child who has a sister or brother shouldn’t have to face the cavernous loss of their sibling too; their connection is often a vital lifeline that can make all the difference in the world to them. WACAP is committed to placing siblings together whenever possible, and I’m writing this to help answer questions families often have about how this works.
Why would a family consider adopting siblings?
- For many, it’s the deep-seated understanding that it’s the right thing to do for the children, to make it possible to them keep and treasure their relationships with one another, a way to help them anchor themselves in their own history and identities.
- For families who know they want to adopt more than one child, adopting siblings is a way to complete their families more quickly, and to keep adoption costs down.
What ages are children in sibling groups?
- The vast majority of siblings we see in our international programs include at least one child age nine or older in it. If your family is focused on younger children you’ll wait longer to be matched.
- For families local to WACAP’s Renton headquarters, in the King County, Washington area, families are most likely to be matched with young siblings though our U.S. Kids foster care and adoption—and these adoptions are also the most economical, and may be faster.
Does WACAP match large sibling groups with families?
- WACAP has matched siblings both domestically and internationally with as many as five children in them, although most are sibling pairs.
How long will the adoption take?
- The timeline varies, depending on where the siblings are. In general the process itself will take about the same length of time as adopting a single child from that program.
- However, if a family is open to school-age siblings, they’ll likely be matched with children very quickly in any of the countries they live in. The shorter wait for a match means the overall adoption time frame will be shorter.
- On the other hand, to adopt young siblings, the wait to be matched will likely be longer than for a single child in that country, sometimes significantly so; families need to plan for a longer process.
What countries refer siblings for adoption?
- Families who hope to adopt siblings are encouraged to consider the U.S.A., Taiwan, Bulgaria, India, or Haiti. We don’t see siblings for adoption in Korea, China, or Thailand, with extremely rare exceptions.
When considering adoption costs, how does adopting siblings affect the overall expense compared to adopting children one at a time?
- Although every country’s adoption expenses are different, many fees are the same as for adopting a single child, which makes sibling adoption more cost effective than doing more than one single adoption.
- With U.S. sibling adoptions, there’s no additional sibling fee, and other additional costs are minimal.
- For international adoptions, WACAP has a sibling fee in addition to regular fees for a single adoption, and families will see additional expenses with siblings for international fees, immigration, visa, travel, etc. Even so, your investment in time and expense will still be significantly less than doing more than one adoption.
- Every sibling adoption is different, and WACAP considers siblings for eligibility for grants or fee reductions on a case by case basis. For more information about expenses in particular countries or specific waiting brothers and sisters we’re advocating for – contact us!
What are the restrictions?
- Both the family’s homestudy social worker and officials in the children’s state or country will consider the family’s potential for success with siblings. Each situation is carefully evaluated, case by case, to determine if it will be a good match. Families must have the financial stability, education, experience, resources, support system, and emotional capacity for kids who will come to them all at once with fear, anger, grief and hope as big as the sky.
Is it possible to adopt just part of a sibling group?
- In most cases, no. There are instances where the children’s social worker may recommend separate placements when the best interests of the children are a concern, but this is unusual.
What if a family is open to siblings, but also to a single child?
- Many families are open to either possibility; we recommend they have their homestudy written to approve them for both types of adoption. Although it’s more likely the family will be matched with an individual child, sometimes there are surprises!
When considering sibling adoption, do families need to be prepared for medical needs?
- Just as some individual children have documented medical conditions, so do some siblings. As with adoptions of one child, it’s families themselves who decide what types of child medical history they are open to considering.
What else do I need to know?
- The biggest difference between adopting a single child vs. adopting siblings isn’t in the adoption process; it’s in the family’s adjustment after the children come home. It can be hard for a family to picture and prepare for the demands of parenting multiple newly adopted children. Although every child has a different way of expressing it, each one comes into their new family famished for the individual love and attention they’ve been lacking, and their combined emotional needs can be overwhelming for parents. WACAP is committed to providing the education and support our families need to be successful with their kids—not only during the adoption process, but after they come home, for as long as they need it.
Over the years of my working with the amazing, capable families who adopt siblings, I’ve sometimes wondered if I would have been up to the challenge of adopting siblings myself, if that had come up.
When I was preparing for my second child, I was confident that I could manage double the responsibility of parenting just one. What I did not anticipate was that it would feel more like responsibility squared. I have trouble even imagining how to calculate the impact that adopting biological siblings at once would have had on my life. But would I have said “yes” to siblings?
It was saying “yes” that landed my querulous, infuriating, inspiring, remarkable “adopted and real” siblings into my life and that monstrous red car of a grocery cart. And everything has been so much more complicated and so much richer ever since.
So, would I have said “yes” to a sibling adoption?
OK…….yes, I probably would have.
About WACAP Family Finders Program Manager Jo Reed:
Jo came to WACAP in 2004 and with her, an unyielding commitment to bringing children and families together. An adoptive parent of two children, Jo is also a daily advocate for every child growing up without permanency. Through her work with WACAP’s Family Finders, she has helped share the stories of thousands of children who needed advocates and a family.
Source of Images: WACAP Families