Why Connection is Important in the Foster Care System

By Tyeisha Thompson, Child Welfare Youth Fellow

I have been involved in the Child Welfare system since I was two. My father passed away from a car accident, and my birth mother was an unfit mother. Along with my two sisters, I spent years moving around in foster care. We didn’t have a stable home until my grandma came to Nebraska from North Dakota to pick us up and move us up there. Eight short years later, my grandma was diagnosed with brain cancer and sadly passed away from a tumor. My sisters and I were relocated to Nebraska and placed with a foster family we had previously years before. Although we didn’t get to choose where we wanted to go, we were grateful that we weren’t split up.

“It is estimated that 53% to 80% of children with siblings are separated from one or more of their siblings while in care.” Separating siblings from children in the foster care system is a huge problem. Separation from one’s siblings can cause anger, resentment, and a sense of loss. These children are already going through so much and it can be easy for them to detach from reality and not confide in anyone. Having a sibling there with you can help you express feelings and create open honest conversations.

Without my sisters by my side, I don’t know how I would have overcome all my challenges. Despite foster families’ best efforts, I have always been my sister’s caretaker. This results from the poor parenting we received as children and my attempts to care for my two younger sisters. At the age of three I was feeding, cleaning, and clothing my younger sisters. There was one time where I wanted to bathe my sisters, so I filled the tub up and got them in it. However, I was unable to turn off the water. I had to sprint to the neighbors for help. Luckily, with help no one was harmed.

Being the oldest, I felt pressure to appear put together and serve as an example for my sisters. I ensured they had all they needed and asked if there was anything I could do for them regularly. I kept quiet about how I felt about this for years and years. No one was monitoring my well-being. I wasn’t receiving the support I needed to prosper. I kept to myself since I felt I couldn’t talk about my past or the struggles I had to endure

It wasn’t until I got connected with Felipe from Central Plains that I could tell my story to someone without feeling ashamed. My connection with Felipe was life changing because after all the years of trauma, I realized I wasn’t a burden and that my story could be used to inspire rather than hiding my story from others. Felipe was the first person who worked for the system that asked me what I wanted. We would meet often to discuss action steps of how I can go after my dreams.

After I started to feel more comfortable with my story, I joined several leadership opportunities and met young people with similar backgrounds. I never felt more connected than I did after engaging myself in these opportunities. I was no longer embarrassed to share my experience for fear of judgment or, quite frankly, of someone not understanding it. I learned how to advocate for myself and for others and found a support system I always needed.

The child protection system does an alright job of connecting young people with individuals and organizations like Felipe and Central Plains. It wasn’t until my senior year of high school until I found out these programs existed. Youth involved in the foster system should be connected at earlier ages, as soon as kindergarten. That way children can build a community of people, resources, and opportunities. Since becoming more involved, I’ve been introduced to various new groups and opportunities.

These experiences and connections have given me the confidence and resources to be the best version of myself. I only wish I had gotten connected at an earlier age. I had no knowledge that these resources existed, and I spent a great deal of my life feeling isolated and unsupported. I believe closer collaboration between the welfare system and public schools would help more kids understand their options.


Joint sibling placements. Casey Family Programs. (2022, June 8). Retrieved January 6, 2023, from https://www.casey.org/joint-sibling-placements

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