The Power of Family: Sibling Bonds
by Melissa Ryba
For some people, the idea of fostering might seem intimidating, or a big stretch for their family. For the Franklins, it is second nature. Andrea and Roy Franklin, foster and adoptive parents with Child and Family Services of Northwestern Michigan (CFS), have had their hands into the job of helping kids for most of their lives. Andrea’s parents were foster parents and great examples of the rewards of helping out children. Andrea and Roy also both work in the field professionally. Andrea is a supervisor at Wellspring Family Preservation programs, and Roy is a Licensing Supervisor at Bethany Christian Services.
When Andrea and Roy were first married, they ran a teen group home with five boys and five girls in Illinois. They left Illinois to be closer to family and wanted to continue helping children. Since they had a lot of experience helping teens, they thought that they would expand their expertise and focus on younger children moving forward. They became licensed foster parents with Child and Family Services.
The Franklins have a strong desire to help sibling groups. Andrea expressed how often she sees children getting split up among different homes and wants to prevent this when at all possible. “There is so much trauma already going on with children entering a new home and the foster care system, it is even more so when they lose their siblings,” she states. Residents of Lake Ann, the Franklins took in a placement of four young children and had them in their care just short of two years. Andrea admits that it was incredibly hard to say goodbye to them. They took a bit of a break, and then they were approached about a sibling group of three children, including a 13-year-old boy, Nick.
Andrea says although they were hesitant to take on a teen again, there was no way they could split up this group of siblings. There was a nine-year gap between ages, with youngest, Angel, just being 2 years old. Max, the middle child was 5. After being in foster care for over three and a half years, the Franklins recently adopted all three of the children. Adoption day was an emotional one, where Angel, not really believing it, asked, “You really get to be my mommy forever?” There was much relief and happiness expressed at finally having closure to the foster care experience.
Andrea feels that the most challenging aspect to fostering is that everyone really wants what is best for their child, including the biological parents, but not all agree on what that is. “Everyone is trying to do what is natural to them, in an unnatural situation,” she remarked. Managing the emotional needs of the parents while ensuring that the child’s needs are met first is complex, but necessary.
Even though the Franklins have adopted, they are open to continue helping more children. Recently they had an infant placed with them for three months before he left to go live with a relative. Their children talk about him frequently, and sometimes see him in the community, and express how happy they are that he is happy. “The insight they have about the well-being of other children is amazing. They want to continue to foster and help other children.”
To anyone that is considering becoming a foster parent, Andrea says, “Pick up the phone and call! There is a child out there that is a match for your family. Whether it is for a week or forever, there is a child out there that needs you.”
The Franklins’ story is part of Child and Family Service’s 32nd annual Brown Bag Campaign. This campaign reminds us of the brown bags many children arrive with when they are first put into foster care. A brown bag (or plastic garbage bag) often contains all their belongings as they head into a new, safer life. Your donation will pay for things like a stuffed animal to hug, counseling, school supplies, winter boots, and opportunities such as music or dance lessons or summer camp. These little brown bags have raised more than $550,000 for children over the past 32 years of the campaign. You can find a bag at Oleson stores throughout northern Michigan, Oryana in Traverse City, or in your local newspaper. Can't find a bag? To donate online or to learn more about the Brown Bag Campaign go to cfsnwmi.org/brown bag.