Brothers and sisters can argue and fuss at the drop of a hat. But when things are up in the air and times get tough, siblings stand together through thick and thin. Currently, Baptist Children’s Homes (BCH) has 24 sibling groups in children’s residential care throughout the state.
“We know that keeping siblings together is important,” BCH president/CEO Michael C. Blackwell says. “Throughout BCH’s history, we have made this a home that welcomes brothers and sisters.”
The large number of sibling groups is attributed to the growing partnership between BCH and the North Carolina Division of Social Services (DSS). DSS has been successfully utilizing a foster care home network to meet the needs of many traumatized children. But the growing number of sibling groups and the agency’s desire to keep brothers and sisters together has prompted them to turn to BCH.
“What is happening now comes from a revitalized partnership with DSS,” BCH’s director of child residential services Linda Morgan says. “We are providing a viable place for siblings. We value these groups and are working hard to maintain the integrity of the sibling unit by providing a successful home experience.”
It is traumatic for children when they are removed from their home. It can be even more traumatic when siblings are separated. Keeping them together helps make the transition smoother. Siblings acclimate to cottage life better when their brother or sister is nearby, and BCH works to accommodate the groups. If there are just brothers or just sisters, they can be placed in the same cottage. If there are brothers and sisters and placed in separate cottages, BCH makes sure they have time together.
More and more sibling groups with younger children are coming into care. In the west, there are a one- and a two-year-old. At Mills Home in Thomasville, one sibling group of four brothers will have the two youngest brothers attending day care.
“It appears that things happening in homes are becoming even more severe,” Morgan says. “In the past, younger children were left with one or both parents when older children were removed, but today it is necessary to remove even the youngest child.”
BCH is committed to being available for a sibling placement at any time, day or night, seven days a week. If a crisis arises in a home and DSS needs help with a sibling group, they can call on BCH.
BCH serves siblings through private placement as well. A private placement originates from a variety of sources – church members, school teachers, counselors and administration, and even family members.
“In my 41 years at BCH,” Morgan says, “I cannot remember serving as many groups at one time. I can remember serving 4 to 5 groups at Broyhill Home. But today, there are 14 sibling groups in the western area – one group is comprised of six siblings.”
Trends suggest that sibling group placements will be around for some time. Younger siblings displaced from their home and a priority on brothers and sisters being placed together will continue to be the guiding force. While foster care meets the needs of many children, BCH serves by keeping family units together.
“We stand committed to serve siblings,” Blackwell asserts. “In years past, sibling groups were successful living at BCH. Today, those brothers and sisters look back at their time growing up with fond memories. My hope is that these groups we serve now will look back and have many good memories as well.”