Keeping siblings together takes commitment
Everyone agrees, it is important to keep brothers and sisters together when they are unable to live with one or both parents. However, it can be a challenge to find a family, even a foster family, that is prepared to care for three, four or five additional children. Baptist Children’s Homes (BCH) is not only able but, with open arms, welcomes sibling groups.
“Our main facilities are like neighborhoods,” says Keith Henry. “Our family-style homes line the streets, and children play in the yards and ride bikes. Our highly-trained cottage parents provide care for as many as ten children in each home. The setting and the staff are prepared for sibling groups.”
Henry is BCH’s chief operating officer and leads in implementing a “child first” intake policy.
Today, 26 sibling groups live on BCH’s three main campuses – Mills Home in Thomasville, Kennedy Home in Kinston, and Broyhill Home in Clyde.
Henry says that BCH is committed to putting the child first. “If a child needs us and we can serve those needs, we take them into care, no matter if it is one child or a sibling group of five.”
This approach is at the center of BCH’s working with private referrals and the various partnerships with Departments of Social Services (DSS) throughout North Carolina.
“We can get a call from a DSS worker at one in the morning with a child or a sibling group and we will admit them – right then,” says Henry. “We take the child; our paperwork can follow.”
This approach has helped strengthen ties with DSS officials.
“We need resources that are responsive,” says Rorie Staton, Children’s Services Supervisor with the Guilford County Department of Social Services. “We know staff at BCH care about children; they are not just housing them. They provide nurturing and enrichment that would rival some care children receive in foster homes.”
Staton says they always seek to place children in family foster homes first, but there are times “when things don’t work that way.”
“We work to keep sibling groups together,” says Staton. “But it’s rare to place a large group in a single home. This is when BCH comes to mind.” Since 2014, BCH has worked to be the provider of choice for sibling group placements, helping brothers and sisters remain together once they are removed from the home. In the past three years, BCH increased total sibling groups served by 22.5% and, today, 43% of the population served in residential cottages are sibling groups.
According to Staton, the difference is in the relationships. “We work in some very heartwrenching, emergency situations. The opioid epidemic is impacting the number of children we serve. More groups of siblings with very young children are coming into custody. Being able to call and have a child placed quickly is invaluable. BCH’s focus is on helping.”
Henry affirms that BCH staff members are responding to calls from families and DSS faster than ever. For all involved, timing is crucial for the well-being of the children. “We want to get the children, make sure they have clean clothes, feed them, and reduce the trauma they are facing.”
He says working closely with DSS workers is the key in sibling group placements. BCH staff regularly visit DSS offices to meet the workers and to share their appreciation for the work they do. “Our staff know the DSS workers in the counties surrounding our facilities. We invite them on our campuses and into our cottages. We have even had DSS workers make private referrals.”
Henry notes that caring for sibling groups is about keeping the child first. He says it is the right thing to do. “We realized that we can’t put a price on caring for a child. We have committed in faith to always keep the child first and let God take care of everything else. And He has.
BCH president/CEO Michael C. Blackwell says the focus from day one, on November 11, 1885, has been the child. “Caring for sibling groups has always been a part of who we are, and we welcome siblings today,” he says. “Although needs are more complex than ever and the challenges children and families face are great, we will not be deterred as we work tirelessly to serve those in crisis. It is our mandate from North Carolina Baptists. It is what God desires.”
You can help make a difference in the lives of children by making an online gift today at www.bchfamily.org/givenow.