“How will this impact the children already in our family?” Sadie, 11 and Shafer, 7 agreed to share some sibling insights on foster care and adoption. Two years ago, Sadie & Shafer welcomed their first foster sister, Elora. November 2019, Sadie and Shafer joined a huge group of supporters to celebrate Elora’s adoption. Sadie and Shafer’s best advice to other kids who are anticipating a new sibling from foster care, “Just love them and accept them as a brother and sister. “
The siblings also have some advice for parents who are anticipating the addition of a new foster sibling
Sadie shared, “Answer the questions your kids have. Have a bunch of friends around who will support them. Take your kids on special dates so they know you still care about them. We had breakfast with dad.” To these wise words Shafer added, “Love them!”
Sadie was 9 and Shafer, 5 when their parents first started talking with them about foster care. Sadie was so excited that while her parents, Jon and Julie, were at Info Night, she told the babysitter, “We’re going to have a baby!” She thought her parents would bring home a baby from Info Night.
Like many potential foster parents, one of Jon and Julie’s fears was how fostering would impact their kids. Sadie share that her parents spent lots of time talking with her and answering her questions. Since the family knew they were going to be fostering babies, Julie and Jon let the kids help purchase and organize baby stuff. Julie shared, “It was helpful to the kids to have some tangible things to do to prepare.”
When Elora arrived, Shafer enjoyed playing with her and noticed that “Elora brought more laughter into our family”. Sadie remembers it as a happy and sad time. “Happy because it was fun to have a younger kid in the house and sad because Elora wasn’t with her mommy.” This surprised Sadie, “I thought it was all going to be happy, but it’s actually really sad. But it’s good.”
Julie and Jon were committed to reunification and the entire family got to know Elora’s mom at visits. They were open and honest with Sadie and Shafer about the fact that Elora would return home to her biological family. Elora was within two weeks of reunifying when things fell apart with her mom. It was very hard for both families.
When asked what is hard about having a sister from foster care, Sadie shared, “Probably that Elora is going to ask about her biological mom one day. She’ll be sad and we can’t fix that. It helps to have friends who have adopted siblings, kids who have experienced the same thing.” For Shafer, it’s easier to handle knowing that Elora’s in a good place.
Along with connecting their children with kids in other foster and adoptive families, Jon and Julie also carved out intentional time for Sadie and Shafer. One way was regular breakfasts with dad. About three months into fostering, Jon asked the kids,” Are you getting enough time with me?” Both kids responded, “We feel like we’re getting more time with you!” Julie reports that as parents, their capacity to love grew. Elora’s case was very involved, there was a lot going on, but throughout the process, the family’s time together increased. Julie shares, “It doesn’t make sense but no one felt like they were on the back burner. It’s a miracle. The fear we had for our children was opposite of God’s reality. He is faithful.”
According to Sadie, one thing that has changed since Elora’s adoption is, “Now I can actually say she’s my sister. Before we had to explain about foster care.” Julie had some fun shirts made that explained the new relationship.
Click here for Project 1.27’s resource Talking to kids about adding a foster sibling.