When we first became foster parents we had no intention of taking in siblings. We had never been parents before and didn’t feel like we were ready for more than one child. We got the call that a baby girl needed a home right away. An hour later, a case worker was at our door with Winnie in his arms. He placed Winnie in my arms for the first time. She nuzzled her head into my neck as he began to tell me about her case. “She won’t admit it but we have suspicions that her biological mother is pregnant. Can I put a note in the file that you and your husband will be taking the baby?”, he asked. I stood there in our kitchen totally speechless, looking down at this sweet little baby girl. Before I had even processed what he said I heard myself say, “Yes. We will foster her baby sibling.”
That day was the beginning of what has become an ongoing case over the past 3 years. Since then, we have taken in 3 of Winnie’s siblings, who have all been born into foster care. We have adopted 2 out of the 4, Winnie and her brother Max. The twins are still foster children, but their trial for severance is soon. For us, the verses in Matthew 25:35-40 are what encouraged us to know that welcoming more siblings into our lives and home was the right thing to do. It has not been easy. Much of their case has felt like a battle; a battle against drugs, neglect, abuse, and “the system.” We have fought hard for these children to not only be together, but to also be safe and have permanency. We have been so aware of the things our kids have lost. They have lost their biological family. They have lost their infancies and toddler-hoods due to being “stuck in the system.” What they have already gone through is more than many go through in an entire lifetime. We wanted desperately for them to keep something through all of this. We wanted them to keep their beautiful connection to one another. Carrying that past and story won’t be something they have to do alone because they have each other.
We hope that they will value having relationships with siblings in the same way that we value relationships with our siblings. They have this direct connection and that is something no one can replace. JJ and I can’t give them our laugh or smile. We can’t tell them why they have blue eyes, or who they got that cowlick in their hair from. We can offer them a sibling who shares their blue eyes, wild wisps of strawberry blonde and big smiles. We pray that as they grow up and learn more about their past that they are able to cling to each other during the difficult times of “growing up.” We pray that they will find comfort in knowing that each of them share in the same story. Above all else, we pray that they grow up in the knowledge that they are chosen, wanted, and loved.
Many times, foster children do not have a true sense of belonging or family. They live in this limbo state between their biological family and their foster family. They don’t belong to either world. By keeping siblings together we have given them the ability to create their own family and stability in the midst of chaos. Even after adoption, they will share a biological connection to each other that we as adoptive parents cannot replicate. Our children have an immensely strong bond aside from their biological one, they are bound together in this shared experience in the foster system, and we pray it keeps them together in the future, just as it has through these difficult seasons.
Personally, taking in siblings has changed our entire lives. It has changed our entire perspective of the world; our eyes have been opened to the great need in our communities. We couldn’t have imagined how our family would become complete in this way: saying “yes” to siblings. Saying “yes” to these siblings and keeping them together has meant the world to them and us. There is something special about experiencing your childhood with someone alongside of you. Someone who can share your story and walk hand-in-hand with you through the good and the bad. A built in best friend. I’m so thankful that these siblings get to be together for now. We are so grateful that our plan for one baby was interrupted by God’s beautiful plan for these 4 sweet children to become our Brenner bunch. Each one of our children has taught us something about how beautiful the world can be, despite the brokenness that brought them to us. Each one of them is a miracle and we feel blessed and honored that we get to do this life with them.
Foster and Adoptive Mom