Just before my fourteenth birthday, my happy family of six decided to take in a fifteen year old foster girl named Hanna*. She was kind and considerate; a rarity among hurt and abused teenagers, so when we met her, we felt that it was just right to add her to our family. After a month went by, though, we ran into our first difficulty: Hanna met with some people from her ‘previous life’- distant relatives of her first family.
The result was a huge breakdown that ended with a broken window and three sobbing siblings.
We were shocked.
It was then that the four ‘original’ siblings realized the rift growing between us. We had all allowed Hanna to just nose her way into the family, figuring that she would find a place, and all of us would still have our place.
Hanna never came to live with us again. In fact, she moved to a nearby city in just a few months and cut off all communication with us.
Adding a member to an established family is always hard. Not all foster situations end as catastrophically as mine did (I’m not trying to scare you here!), and there are tons of success stories among foster families. But in every foster situation, it is important that you still feel safe in your own home with your family. Here’s a little list of ways to keep yourself safe when you get a foster sibling:
#1: Prioritize one on one time with each of your family members (including your new sibling) to keep relationships in tip-top condition.
#2: Whether your foster sibling tells you their story or not, there is a good chance that they have been badly hurt in the past by people very close to them. DON’T BE SURPRISED IF THEY SUDDENLY START TO ACT OUT! For most fosters this is their way of testing how much you are willing to sacrifice for them.
#3: Keep some parts of your life just for yourself. When Hanna met my extended family, she wanted me to add her to a group on social media that was between just me and a few cousins I was close with, but I refused because I wanted to keep some relationships separate from her. THIS IS OKAY.
#4: Don’t expect your foster siblings to keep your secrets. He or she has probably dealt with so many people who aren’t trustworthy, that they probably don’t know how to be trustworthy.
Remember, it is possible that not all of these will apply to your foster situation- every family is unique, and so is every foster. If you are a part of a foster family, go ahead and comment with any tips that I may have missed.
*Hanna is not her real name (I did this to protect her privacy)