Friday, August 10, 2012

Foster Parent Friday - Why Birth Order isn't THAT relevant

I had a bit of an epiphany recently. 

Before I get into it (as if you couldn't tell from my title) I want to point out that I don't think this is an epiphany I could have understood without being an experienced foster/adopt mom. 

When we went through the incessant questionnaire also known as the home study process, we said we needed to keep our son the oldest.  I think that's fairly common philosophy out there for a few reasons.  First, there's a strong natural belief in the effect of birth order and, as a result, the impact changing birth order in a family can have on individual members and the family unit.  Second, there's typically a strong bond between parents who wish to foster/adopt and any forever children they already have.  This was our situation.  Our son was the firstborn.  He was used to everything as an only child/firstborn.  We wanted to preserve that role for him in our family.  So though we agreed to get licensed for children 0-6 years old and our son was only 3 at the time, we said we were only interested in accepting kids 0-3.  We wanted Logan to remain the oldest.

As time went on we had 11 (now) kids.  All have been younger than Logan, preserving birth order in our family.  We had an opportunity once to take a 7 year old but since our license only allowed up to 6, we couldn't accept that placement.  So we had a lot of kids younger than Logan by at least 1 year.
While that is all well and good I realized that we were not considering something that I think most people considering birth order overlook.

Though are son has always been in birth order, all but one of our 11 children have been out of birth order in our family.  You see, with the exception of #5/#6 who had an older brother who had not been removed (because the family took him out-of-state), all of our kiddos were 1st and/or 2nd born.  When they came to our family and Logan was the oldest, they ended up being 2nd and/or 3rd born. 

I'm not sure what the impact was on the younger of sibling groups if any.  I actually think in a way this was beneficial to them because it reduced some of the sibling rivalry and fight for attention with their birth sibling that had previously existed in their home of origin because of their sibling's first born status.

The impact on our 1st born placements has been clear, especially with the older ones.  They have clearly been used to being the oldest, the favorite, the bigger kid, the one who gives the orders in th ehome.  Some of this was a result of poor parenting for sure but much of it had to do with their experience as 1st born.  Then they are removed from their home, thrust into the lives of strangers, and now they don't know how to interact with an older sibling in the family.  It is a foreign concept too them that they aren't really sure how to handle.

This is the case in the majority of cases I've seen.  In the ones where siblings are separated for some reason though the birth order may have been maintained the sibling group was broken up causing at least equal concern and trauma. 

I'm left with the question - which birth order is more important to keep?  I could squint and see the argument whereas since foster placements come and go maintaining the birth order for your forever children is more important - it helps keep stability in the lives of your forever children.  Honestly though I'm left strongly believing that I can't ethically choose birth order for one child over the others....if its important for one child isn't it equally important for another? 

Since it's impossible to keep birth order for all kids without separating a sibling group I've decided that birth order can't really matter in the decision process to accept new placements.  Do they need a home?  Can we help them heal?  Can we keep all of our family members safe?  Does God want us to accept the placement?  I think these questions are much more important.

With that in mind we've inquired about a sibling group with an older child.  This is the first time we've ever done it and though we're not believing strongly that these are "our" children to adopt, we are open to looking into it more and are trying to be open about what we could and should do in our home independent of preserving birth order. 

1 comment:

Dana Beam said...

That's a question I've been struggling with too. I don't think it's quite as important as a lot of people make it out to be and therefore we're not asking to keep our birth order, exactly. But we've had a LOT of people question whether we're doing the right thing. However we are asking that our oldest remain the oldest so that I can work my way into figuring out how to deal with older children. But who knows what God will do in the future.