Forgotten bonds: The role of sibling relationships in foster families
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Foster care is becoming a more prevalent diverse family form, and serves a critical role in our society. Little is known about the role siblings play in transitions in and out of foster care. Guided by discourse dependent theorizing (Galvin, 2006) rooted in social constructionism (Gergen, 1985) conclusions were drawn to better understand how siblings with a pre-existing relationship (e.g., blood or legal ties) sustain and maintain their relationships through transitions in and out of foster care. Using qualitative interviews from former foster children (N = 21) three research questions were analyzed. First, two themes emerged – lost and anchored – for how siblings were discursively experiencing their sibling relationship. Siblings felt a stronger sense of loss when contact with their sibling was disrupted. Siblings were able to experience a stronger sense of anchoring when connection and trust was established. Siblings fluxuated between these two themes at different points in their lives. The second research question identified two context-specific discourse dependent strategies – caregiving and unwritten covenants – to extend current theorizing. Lastly, perceptions of how foster children experienced polices that constrained and enabled their sibling relationships were assessed. These findings were discussed to provide theoretical contributions and extensions. Practical implications, an agenda for future research, and the importance of sibling relationships is presented.