Fostering siblings strengthens family bonds
When Jim and Linda Paugh began their journey to become foster parents, they made a commitment to care for siblings. They learned during training that children in the child welfare system have already experienced a significant amount of trauma and separating them from a brother or sister, which may feel like the only stability they have remaining, could add even more.
“Their siblings may be the only comfort they have as they go through this process and to remove them from that just makes it iso much harder to recover,” says Linda. “So we decided that if we could provide a safe and less traumatic environment for siblings to find some peace or calm, we wanted to do that.”
After getting licensed through Child Crisis Arizona, Jim and Linda soon became foster parents to Abby, 3, and her 17-month-old brother, JoJo.
Both children had spent several weeks at Phoenix Children’s Hospital recovering from abuse before going home with the Paughs. Each had an extensive medical file that documented what they had endured. Jim and Linda cared for the children, tending to their physical and emotional needs as the children began to heal.
Linda recalls the early days, when Abby acted more like a parent to JoJo than a big sister. Although Abby slept like a rock, JoJo was prone to nightmares. The Paughs found themselves spending their nights in the children’s room, ready to comfort JoJo when needed. In the mornings, the children would wake to see each other and Abby would assure JoJo everything would be alright.
“Abby had to learn what it meant to be a child and to trust that we would care for them both,” Linda says. “Now they have a normal sibling relationship. There is a sweetness to it and a little mischievousness at times. It’s clear they have that support in one another.”
Quality foster families like the Paughs continue to be in high demand, with a focus on safe, loving and supportive environments where children can thrive. In particular, there is a strong need for more families willing to keep siblings together. Currently there are 171 foster families licensed through Child Crisis Arizona and about 50 of those families care for sibling groups.
Marcia Reck, foster care and adoption program director for Child Crisis Arizona, says keeping siblings together is important because attachments build on attachments. When siblings come into a home together, they are able to keep and strengthen that sibling bond, learning that they can trust another human being.
Families who have been able to accommodate sibling groups have found that they have been quite successful because the bonding and attachment the children have with each other can then extend to the foster parents, Marcia says.
“The need for families willing to take siblings is huge and it is rewarding in a different kind of way,” says Marcia. “You realize you are a factor in those children maintaining that lifelong bond. There’s great satisfaction in that.”
Linda Paugh agrees. She believes saying yes to fostering was the best decision she and her husband ever made. She urges those interested in becoming foster parents to do their research, ask questions and learn as much as they can to ensure it is the right decision for them.
“You are committing to supporting little lives. You need to be sure,” Linda says. “It’s not easy but the rewards outweigh whatever you are putting in. It is an amazing experience.”
When Abby and JoJo eventually became eligible for adoption, Linda and Jim welcomed them permanently into their home. Abby is now 8 and JoJo, nearly 6. Every year they celebrate their forever family birthday with a fun activity and dinner.
National Foster Care Month is the perfect time to explore being a foster parent. Learn how.