“People said we were nuts … I understand what they were saying now”: An exploration of the transition to parenthood in sibling group adoption

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Despite U.S. federal laws that require placing siblings together in foster care whenever possible, a majority of children are still separated from at least one of their siblings when in foster care or when adopted, due to various barriers including difficulty finding adoptive parents that match the needs of sibling groups. Few studies have focused on the experiences of parents who adopt sibling groups, resulting in little understanding of (a) their motivations for doing so, and (b) the challenges and strengths that accompany sibling group adoption. The current exploratory longitudinal qualitative study aims to address this gap. Twelve parents in six same-sex couples who adopted a sibling group from foster care were interviewed before, immediately after, and two years after they adopted. Findings indicate that sibling group adoption introduces several obstacles during the transition to parenthood including difficulty responding to children's varied needs during the transition and difficulty developing a close bond with each child. Further, parents described challenges integrating their own expectations with the family practices of the sibling group. Parents also indicated ways that adopting siblings together deepened their understanding of their children's behaviors and provided opportunities to establish family norms even when one child was struggling to adapt to the transition. After several years, parents reported reorganizing their family roles to meet the needs of their children. They also identified areas of perceived competence (e.g., behavior management) and areas where challenges persisted (e.g., navigating birth family contact). Implications for policy and practice around supporting sibling group adoptions are discussed.

Publication Title

Children and Youth Services Review

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adoption, foster care, parenthood, sibling group, siblings, transition to parenthood