National Sibling Day on Thursday, April 10, is the ideal time to show your brothers and sisters how much you care about them. The sibling relationship can be the strongest and longest relationship in your lifetime and siblings can be your strongest allies throughout your life.
The impact of sibling relationships is even more significant for children in foster care. These children often loose contact with their siblings at a time when they are already suffering from irreconcilable grief and loss. Keeping foster siblings connected enables them to maintain those relationships and helps them develop a sense of personal and familial identity. These unique relationships become a haven of support and protection for siblings when they are transitioning from foster care – when no parents or adults are around.
Project Visitation, a program of Family Programs Hawaii, understands that children entering the foster care system have the right to maintain family connections and supports the importance of sibling relationships. Through Project Visitation members of the community volunteer their time and resources to facilitate monthly visits and events for siblings so they can stay connected.
Here is Jennifer Torres’ story. Jennifer is the program coordinator for Project Visitation in East Hawaii and a former foster youth.
“My heart is filled as I hear a 9-year-old boy tell his 17-year-old sister, ‘I love and miss you.’ I turn around to see his sister give him a hug while telling him, ‘I love you too and don’t worry, now we will be able to see each other every month’. She then looks at me and says, ‘Thank you.’
“Yes, I have the most rewarding job. I get to witness and experience compassion, loyalty, bravery, protectiveness, humbleness, and appreciation while providing a service for East Hawaii’s foster youth. I am honored to be a part of Family Programs Hawaii’s Project Visitation program, where keeping siblings connected is our goal.
“I am one of six siblings who grew up in foster care. I resided in four different foster placements, none of which included all of my siblings. I know all too well the importance of our goal of keeping siblings connected. I am truly blessed to be in a position to pay it forward while providing positive life experiences for siblings in need of family connections.
“East Hawaii is currently serving 32 youths. We are i need of volunteers for monthly visits and quarterly events. Our last event was held in February of this year at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and Kilauea Military Camp. Sibling groups were treated to a fun-filled day of activities that included a lava tube adventure hike, viewing of the crater, tour of Jaggar Museum, sibling pictures, Cosmic Bowling, arcade games and lunch. The whole event was sponsored by Golden State Foods.
Family Programs Hawaii Family Programs Hawaii is a 501 (c)3 social service agency dedicated to strengthening children and families through high quality prevention, support and transition services, understands the importance of sibling relationships. “We believe that children entering the foster care system have the right to maintain their family connections,” stated President and CEO Linda Santos.