‘The day he left was one of the worst days of my life. He cried, begging to stay. That was the last time I saw him.’: Friends create community for siblings of foster kids

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“My name is Emma, and I am one of the two people who run Always Enough Love, an Instagram account dedicated to siblings of foster children. Talia-Rae and I are both sisters of foster children, and we want to share our stories with others to encourage them on their fostering journey.

My family started fostering when I was 16, but we had been a safe place for a lot of kids to land before then. When we first started fostering we only did respite, and we met some amazing kids because of it. After a year, we started fostering long-term placements. We mostly fostered babies, and I was always very involved in their care. Babies are kind of my jam, so I was all in when it came to helping out. Fostering is a huge part of my life, and I plan on fostering in a few years!  The fun fact is I will be the third generation in a row to foster in my family!

Foster sisters sitting in toy strollers talking
Courtesy of Talia-Rae and Emma

And I’m Talia-Rae! I’m currently the oldest of seven kids, with four permanent siblings and two foster siblings. My family has been fostering since I was 6, so foster care is something I’ve basically always known. Even before we were officially a foster family, we had kids stay with us as a safe place. For several years, we only fostered younger kids, with the oldest being 5. Then, after the adoption of two of my siblings, we opened our home to kids of all ages.

In our area (and most areas I’m aware of), the need for foster families for older kids and teenagers is incredibly great. For this reason, our home has been filled with several different teenage placements over the last 2 years. I love fostering and it has shaped me in so many ways. It’s an experience that is sometimes so difficult but is also the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. It’s not something I would ever change. Looking forward, I would love a career with children and would also like to foster as an adult.

Young girl taking smiling selfie with foster sister
Courtesy of Talia-Rae and Emma

In 2017, when I was 14, I (Talia-Rae) went through one of the hardest goodbyes I have ever experienced. We had been involved with our Little Man since he was 6 weeks old and he was 5 at the time. It was his second time living in our home, making for a total of 2 and a half years solely in our home. For the other two and a half years he was in his biological family’s home, he came to church with us on Sundays and for sleepovers at least once a month. He moved back in with us when he was 4. When we found out he was transitioning, I remember writing in my journal. I was so angry. Yes, as foster families, we’re supposed to fight for reunification, but it doesn’t make it easy. At all. The day he left was one of the worst days of my life. He cried, begging to stay with us. And when his family pulled up to our house to take him home, he clung to my dad. As we buckled him in, I remember his face… he was sobbing, tears streaming down his face. And this was the last time I saw him.

Just before this, my younger (now forever) sister had moved in. People frequently commented on how it must be nice she and her biological brother were with us because they could distract us from the loss of our Little Man. I didn’t have other teenagers who knew what I was going through. My friends asked questions I couldn’t answer, commented on how it was better he moved out so we could adopt my younger siblings, and just overall didn’t understand what I was going through. They didn’t do it to be hurtful, they simply didn’t understand the pain I was going through. And it was hard. When you foster, it becomes a huge part of your life. You learn to see the brokenness and beauty in life. I (Emma) will never see the world the same again, and I’m okay with this. Sometimes it’s hard to hold all the horrible things that have happened to your siblings in your heart.

Foster siblings sitting on couch wearing matching pajamas
Courtesy of Talia-Rae and Emma

For a lot of foster siblings, we hold that pain alone. It’s hard to talk to your parents about your struggles because you don’t want them to feel guilty about how foster care has changed you. I held this pain for a long time, and only recently have I been able to start working through it, and talking about it. This is where the story of Always Enough Love comes into play. We first met through our personal Instagram pages. Over the past several months, it has been such a blessing for me (Talia-Rae) to connect with Emma and learn more about her foster care journey. Shockingly, we’ve had so many similar experiences—not just in foster care, but in life in general as well—which has made it super easy to connect!

Once we started following each other, I reached out and we became fast friends. I’ve learned the importance of community and know how special it is to find foster sibling friends through Instagram. It’s such a unique experience and connecting with Emma has been no different!

It’s so special to have a friend who truly understands what it’s like to live a life that is so unique compared to what most people will experience. Emma has been one of the biggest supports over the last several months throughout the many emotional ups and downs of this sometimes crazy foster care life. I am so grateful for her support and understanding. She gives me the space to share different aspects of foster care life, including the everyday grief of losing a sibling, the excitement of welcoming a new placement, and moments of growth in our daily lives. I (Emma) started Always Enough Love on a whim originally. I wanted to build a community of siblings of foster children because I had never been able to find one in person. I chose Instagram because it’s where I met Talia-Rae, and it felt like a good place to grow new friendships. Before I met Talia-Rae, I had never really had a friend whose family fostered. It was very lonely because there were so many experiences none of my friends could even comprehend.

Foster siblings lying on the grass
Courtesy of Talia-Rae and Emma

Not very many people understand what it feels like to have your brother or sister leave one day, with almost no warning. It’s also hard for a lot of people to understand gaining a new sibling at the drop of a hat. I remember one day, my family showed up to church with five extra kids, and everyone was so shocked! It didn’t seem that strange to us, because these kids had stayed with us many times, so having them was just normal. It is really important to have a community, and I am so excited to help other foster siblings grow and connect with each other.

I hope because of Always Enough Love we can help foster siblings who feel like they can’t talk to their friends about their experiences find somewhere to talk about all the things that come with foster care—the good, the bad, and the ugly. We also want to show parents fostering is not going to hurt their biological children and it actually has made us better overall. A lot of parents are so nervous when they are considering foster care. You hear so many crazy stories, and unfortunately for a lot of people that is the only thing they know about fostering.

Foster siblings holding hands at playground
Courtesy of Talia-Rae and Emma

Fostering is so much more than this. You get to meet and love people you would have never known before. Fostering has made me more compassionate and understanding and has made me so much stronger. I learned so much about myself because of fostering, and I think overall most foster siblings I talk to feel the same way. I love to hear others’ perspectives, and I’m sure there are some people who resent their families fostering, but I think for most of us we see it as a positive thing in our lives. We are so excited to get the opportunity to reach out to so many people! We honestly didn’t expect our page to grow this big, this fast! It has been so exciting making new friends and learning from other people who are in the foster care world.

Getting to know other people who have shared experiences with you is so amazing. It feels so good to be able to connect with so many people and be able to be a resource for them. I have really enjoyed the conversations I’ve had because of Always Enough Love, and being able to meet so many people involved in the foster care world is amazing!

Foster brothers wearing green hugging each other
Courtesy of Talia-Rae and Emma

As we meet new people, it is fun to connect them with others who have similar stories. Helping people find new friends and support is so fulfilling, and as we get bigger we are able to do it more and more. I love meeting new foster siblings and hearing their stories. All of our stories are so different but have so many things in common as well. So many of us want to foster later, which just goes to show most foster siblings are happy their family fostered! It is going to be amazing as we get older to be able to connect with younger foster siblings and mentor them through what can sometimes be very hard times. As we meet more and more people through our page, our desire to make a loving and safe space for foster siblings grows. As we continue to grow, we look forward to opening up the account to guest posts from other foster families. This way, our incredible community can provide even more perspectives. Hearing different perspectives and opinions is super important in life and we believe the same about foster care.

We want to give a full and diverse picture of the differences of foster care in varying countries, with differently-aged kids in the home, and different familial roles (sibling, parent, grandparent, etc.). As time goes on, we look forward to the voice we can be for families who already foster or families who are considering foster parenting. Having friends I (Emma) am able to text and tell them things are hard at my house today because of my siblings’ trauma is so nice. I never felt like I could do this with my other friends because I knew they wouldn’t understand. When they would see the behaviors my brothers and sisters were having, they would think they were just badly behaved, but I know my foster care friends will understand my siblings aren’t naughty, they just have struggles that look like bad behavior on the outside. The way we relate to each other is so very different than it is with other friendships. We both see things through the same lens.

Large group of foster siblings sitting at kitchen table smiling
Courtesy of Talia-Rae and Emma

As I have seen my own life be benefited so much from having friends like Talia-Rae, I am determined to help others find this same kind of kinship together. Our friendships on Instagram have been such a blessing in both of our lives, and we want to give others an opportunity to make friends who understand them just as much as we understand each other. Over the last 12 years, I (Talia-Rae) have had a myriad of experiences with foster care. There have been some very low lows and some incredibly high highs. I’ve been a sibling to nearly two dozen full-time placement siblings and nearly 40 more respite and emergency placements. Between goodbyes and hellos, tantrums and moments of laughter, frustration, joy, and everything in between, this foster care life is an absolute roller coaster. Having friends like Emma I can turn to who understand what I’m going through is such a blessing.

I never imagined the community I could grow through Instagram and this is one of the most incredible things I’ve ever experienced. They are people I can turn to when there’s a stressful, potentially life-changing court date. They are people I can turn to when I need to vent about frustrations with the system. They are people I can turn to who understand the need to celebrate every little win. One of my favorite quotes about foster care is, ‘There’s never a perfect time to foster or adopt. Just a lot of opportunities to say ‘yes’ despite the many reasons to say ‘no.’—Jason Johnson. Saying yes is one of the best things my family has ever done. I have learned so much, made so many friendships, and experienced so many different things. Even when there have been moments we’ve wanted to say no, I have experienced such incredible blessings from the ‘yeses’ we have said.

Foster siblings sitting on couch doing homework
Courtesy of Talia-Rae and Emma

We are absolutely thrilled at how quickly our account has grown. It’s fascinating to see the community we have already built and we look forward to how we can continue to grow our community. It is so amazing to hear from different people about their stories. We have friends from different countries who foster, and it is super cool to hear about how fostering differs from country to country. We have made some of the best friends because we decided to share our stories, and it is so much fun to all chat together about all things foster care. It makes me so happy to hop on Instagram and see how many people are interested in hearing our stories. It is truly an honor to be able to use our voices to educate and bring people together. We are very excited to see where Always Enough Love takes us, and if you are interested in foster care or have any questions, we’d love to chat with you!”

Six foster siblings sitting and smiling on front porch steps
Courtesy of Talia-Rae and Emma

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Talia-Rae of Ontario, Canada, and Emma of Colorado. You can follow their journey on Instagram, and reach out to them with questions at their email: always.enough.love@gmail.com. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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