My name is Hannah and I’m 16 years old. When I was 3 my sister Addyson was born and when I was 6 I got an older sister. You see, I’m a sibling to foster children.
When I was born, my mom was a social worker. I remember her, from time to time, talking about a few cases, but I didn’t really understand why these kids couldn’t just live with their mom or dad. When I was just starting kindergarten, my parents sat me down and told me that we may have a few kids start to live with us. They explained that it was like having a sleepover for a few weeks. At that age I didn’t think this was a big deal, but would later find out that having those kids live with us would change my life forever.
My mom first met my sister, Brittany, when my sister was 14. She told her boss that if anything happened, and Brittany could no longer live with her grandparents, that she wanted to be contacted first before Brittany was put in the system. Two years later, my mom got a call on a Thursday and, by Sunday, Brittany was moving into our house. A month later, we decided to move and I felt so lost. There was so much change happening around me and I didn’t know how to cope with it all. My parents had to focus on Brittany a lot and, then, my little sister because she was still so young. I was angry. I mean these were my parents, and I didn’t want to share all that much. I had to walk through a lot of pain, but the story doesn’t end there.
As I got older, Brittany and I developed an awesome relationship. I had always secretly wanted an older sister, not that I would’ve admitted that to anyone. Life was going pretty good, and, then, it came to a screeching halt. Brittany was pregnant. She was about to be a senior in high school, so my mom decided to home school her. I was nine at the time and had been homeschooled my entire life. When my mom decided that homeschooling Brittany was the best option that meant that I had to go to public school. Going to public school ended up being one of the best experiences I could have asked for. But, in the moment, it felt like the end of the world.
Brittany had my niece and married her boyfriend. We then officially adopted her into our family. On the day of her adoption, when we were leaving the courthouse, my mom said that we were not done with foster care. I was ok with that. I think one of the best things about opening up our home was that, from a young age, I understood that not everyone got to have a life like mine. I was instilled with a desire to help those who are less fortunate and that desire has continued, and is even affecting my future career choices.
Foster care isn’t easy; there are good days and bad days. Sometimes the hardest part about being a foster sister is connecting with one of the kids living with you and then having them placed in a different home. Other times, the hardest part is when you aren’t able to connect with them no matter how much effort you put in. If I could tell future foster parents anything, it would be to not expect a fairytale. Not all days are going to be good days. Don’t get caught up trying to look like the perfect family. And lastly make time for all your kids, while your foster kids need your love and attention, so do your biological children.
To any children whose parents are considering fostering, it’s ok to be scared. Life is going to change a lot, and if you’re anything like me, change is hard. But, you are going to meet so many amazing new people, and make some lifelong friendships. The future is something that is so unpredictable and uncertain. One thing I do know is that foster care is something that I will always want to be involved in.
As I’ve gotten older, Brittany has become the best big sister I could ask for. She is married now and has three kids with one on the way. My little sister is going to be in the eighth grade next year and I’m going to be a junior in high school. I’m deciding what I want to do with the rest of my life. Something that I’ve been considering is becoming a social worker, so that I can help some of the most vulnerable kids living in our society today.
One of my parent’s biggest fears going into the world of foster care was how is this going to affect our biological children. If I can give any ease to the parents out there who are worried, being a foster sibling is hard you have to make sacrifices, but being a foster sibling has given me so much. It has opened my eyes to a world that is so often forgotten, it has given me a new perspective on what a family can look like, and most of all, I’ve learned that even through the pain and the hard times there is so much joy to be found all around you.
If I could tell the world anything about foster care it would be that there is such a big need for more people to take a huge leap of faith. And that while your impact might feel small in the grand scheme of things, to the children who you will open up your home to it means the world to have a safe space. Foster care is a scary, unpredictable, joyful thing, and it has changed my life for the better.