Children all over America are feeling anxious, unsettled and unsafe because of the fast-escalating spread of the coronavirus. Younger children are reverting back to outgrown behaviors such as thumb-sucking and bathroom accidents. Teenagers are experiencing dramatic mood swings and becoming more fearful and irritable.
So imagine the challenge of these unprecedented times on children in foster care—those in private homes and those in group residences. “These are children who have already experienced trauma and loss because they were separated from their birth families,” says Janaeyah Reid, an adoption and permanency worker with Gemma, an organization that serves vulnerable children and families in Philadelphia and its suburbs. “Disruption of normal activities such as school, social distancing from friends and fear of getting sick themselves feels overwhelming and difficult to process,” says Reid.
“And now they are separated from their supports—the people they have come to know and rely on. Working with them virtually can’t bring them the comfort, healing and sense of safety they absolutely need. And we can’t tell them it will be better next week or next month because we don’t know that it will.”
Child welfare staff are grappling with what to do now…how do they deliver by phone or video conversations the human connection they have built with the children? How can a telephone call take the place of a once-a-week face-to-face visit with a reassuring psychiatrist that a child is just beginning to trust?
The toll on social workers is physical and emotional. They worry about getting sick themselves and putting their families at risk. Child welfare workers in New York, Washington, Michigan and other states have already tested positive for the virus. What will it take to usher the most vulnerable children through this crisis? And what will the fallout be? What are the implications for the future?
Meanwhile, the message from mental health practitioners for those in child welfare is to keep calm and avoid panic. Panic is more easily transmitted to children than the virus itself.
Today we are going to talk about why it’s important to try to keep sibling groups together. We know that it is not always possible to keep a sibling group together, but we wanted to talk about some of the benefits it can have if you are able to.
The National Center for Youth Law explains that when entering the foster care system, children can lose their sense of identity and feel detached from their culture. They can feel lost and become anxious as they are experiencing a lot of change and uncertainty. These feelings can be subsided in the rare circumstances when siblings can remain together in the foster care system. The National Center for Youth Law also found that sibling groups that stay together can help each other “provide emotional support, companionship, and comfort”. By keeping siblings together, they can help each other through this emotionally challenging time with their shared experience and support.
These children’s lives have just been altered in a major way, so by keeping them with their siblings, you will help relieve that stress a bit and keep some sense of normalcy in this uncertain time. By being together they provide emotional support for each other while keeping their biological connection strong. This offers youth that are part of a sibling group more stability and a sense of safety. In most cases, siblings placed together are more resilient, feel safe to share their experiences, and begin to understand love is unconditional.
It is also important to assess each situation individually because in rare cases it is better to separate siblings. For example, if a sibling is abusive to their other siblings. Be sure to work closely with your social worker to determine what is best for you and the children.
If you have questions about how you can keep sibling groups together, or how to adopt sibling groups please do not hesitate to reach out. If you have any questions about the adoption process or The Adoption Center, give us a call or send us an email.
Hello there! My name is McKenziee, and I’m a new volunteer joining the Adoption Center family. I am
really excited to join this incredible community and learn from all of you and hear your stories. I
also hope to be a resource of information about the adoption process, fostering, our events, and
interesting things happening in the adoption and foster community.
A little bit about me. I am a senior in college studying media studies and production with a
passion in educational and medical media productions. Ever since I was young I have wondered
about the adoption process and I have always wanted to help those in the foster care system.
Recently, a friend of mine mentioned that their family was considering adoption and it rekindled
my curiosity about my own interest in adopting one day. So I decided to take the next step and
learn more about it, while being able to help those in the foster care system as well. I am excited
to see where this journey takes me and look forward to both learning from you and becoming a
If you have any questions about the Adoption Center, or would like to feature your story do not
hesitate to reach out. I look forward to hearing from you!
Have you met Karli? Her mom struggles with substance abuse, and she is in foster care. Karli is not a real child…she’s a six-year-old Muppet with yellow pigtails made of ostrich feathers. The creators of Sesame Street introduced her on the show last month. They did it because more than 400,000 children are in foster care in this country, and it is estimated that nearly 80% of those cases involve substance abuse. In the video, “Sesame Street in the Community,” available only online, Elmo’s dad explains to him that Karli’s mother has a disease called addiction that can make people act in ways they can’t control. Elmo and Karli talk together about “grown-up problems” and how sharing them can help when you’re frightened or sad. The videos show that Karli’s mother is getting treatment, and the rest of the neighborhood’s adults, kids and Muppets help Karli cope. What will the impact be when a time-honored show like Sesame Street tackles one of the country’s most significant problems? The producers want to know and so do we.
To hear Karli and her "for now family" sing about finding a place for oneself:
In honor of National Adoption Month, the following was shared by Stephanie Gambone, an Adoption Center board member.
I remember the day Mia was born like it was yesterday. I had just turned 40 years old a few days before I received the call at work that a little girl was born and her birth mother was looking for a family to adopt her. We had two failed matches during our adoption journey and we learned to be patient and manage our expectations. (A match is when your family is selected for an adoption placement.) The days and weeks following were emotional and amazing all wrapped up in one. The moment we laid eyes on Mia, we knew she was our daughter. Mia has changed our lives in so many ways and we could not imagine our lives without her.
Parenthood comes in many different ways. Adoption was right for us. Adoption brought this amazing and wonderful child into our lives. Mia completed our family. I joined the Adoption Center Board shortly after we adopted Mia and have been a passionate advocate for adoption ever since. I have also been informally working with individuals /families who are exploring the adoption process and the first thing people ask me is “how long does it take?" The answer is not one they usually want to hear because the truth is that it varies. My husband and I started the adoption process three years before Mia was placed with us and then the adoption was formalized six months following placement. I usually tell people to do your research, be patient and embrace every aspect of the journey. Adoption is a wonderful way to start or a grow a family and it’s worth the wait.
We can help you with your research into adoption, give us a call at 800-To-Adopt or email at email@example.com.
Did you hear about the teenager who still wants to be adopted? How about the 22 teens with the same desire? Then maybe you heard about the Older Youth Matching Event we held this past Saturday in Western Pennsylvania! Twenty two youth, (and their social workers) spent the day getting to know 11 families who are all interested in adopting teenagers!
Joshua Strelbicki, our “Master of Ceremonies” (also known as our group facilitator), led the families and youth in get acquainted games and exercises. The games were fun and allowed everyone to learn each other’s names and begin to find out what they may have in common. After stuffing ourselves with a hot buffet lunch, the kids, followed by the families, made a bee line for the fishing pond. Families helped the kids with fishing and also had a chance to chat with social workers. Later in the day we learned more about one another when the families and kids shared information about themselves in an activity called “Everyone Has a Voice.” We finished the day with the kids signing the t-shirts they each received and a closing ceremony where each youth was honored for their participation.
We are still reviewing the evaluations from the day, but here are a few comments we’ve received so far:
From a social worker: “The event was fantastic!”
From a family: “Thank you for a wonderful event on Saturday! We absolutely loved it!“
From a youth: (The question was “How would you describe today’s event to someone who was not here?) “That you have fun with other families and you meet kids in the same situation as you.”
From another youth: “Perfect. A+”
Now that the youth and families have made some connections, the next step is for the youth social workers, the families and their social workers to further look into whether a particular child and a particular family will be a good match for one another. We’ll keep you posted on future outcomes!
If you have a completed family profile/homestudy and would are interested in attending an older youth (ages 12 and up) matching event, we can keep you posted on upcoming events! Check our website for future dates and locations!
We are sad at the Adoption Center at the passing in April of our loyal volunteer, Patricia Mans. Pat was a volunteer at the Adoption Center for 20 years. Celebrating her 90th birthday this year, she was truly amazing and tireless! She traveled by public transportation from New Jersey to write the child waiting newspaper columns for the Center in the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Philadelphia Tribune. Pat was feisty and determined to get her work done when she came to the office. However, she also sweetened the day for us. She usually made an entrance into each office to bring a small piece of chocolate and chat about how she was doing and always wanting to know if there were more children she needed to write about. We miss you Pat. You will always be remembered for your contribution to the work of the Adoption Center.
The Adoption Center is pleased to be partnering with Parenting Special Needs online magazine which brings you features about raising children with special challenges. The magazine is published six times a year.
In the current issue, Thomas is featured on page 30, click here to check this great magazine out!