Bill to keep siblings in foster care connected: 'Would my brothers still be here?'

The only picture Alan Linhares has of himself and his two brothers before they were separated in the foster care system. (Courtesy Alan Linhares)

Most children who go into foster care end up separated from their brothers or sisters; however, a new bill in the 2017 legislative session looks to keep the sibling bond alive.

The new bill - known as “The Sibling Bill of Rights” - would make sure that if children are separated, they can stay in contact.

Alan Linhares lost communication with his brothers, Robert and John, when they entered the foster care system as young boys.

“I had vivid memories of them, and them of me,” Linhares said. “It's a shame that the state for so long has ignored one of these basic needs for positive human development, positive relationships with siblings."

House Bill 2216, now headed for the governor's desk, would ensure siblings keep in contact.

“I think if a bill like this were in place it would be the norm, or the expectation, that we preserve these relationships the best that we can,” Alan said.

KATU News met Linhares in the fall while he was searching for his siblings. Since then, he's learned that both died while in their 20s.

“Would my brothers still be here? I believe they would. I believe those types or relationships keep people more capable and resilient,” Linhares said.

Alan says he hopes this bill will make a better future for others.

“It’s definitely one of the pieces we need for a better foster care system,” Alan said.

Other former foster kids, like Alexis Baska, agree.

“Staying connected with your siblings is one of the most important things, I think,” Baska said.

She was kept from her siblings in foster care too. She worked with the Oregon Foster Youth Connection to come up with the Sibling Bill of Rights.

“I wish this would have been around when I first entered care, (siblings) are the only people that fully understand what you are going through,” Baska said.

House Bill 2216 is expected to be signed by the Governor on May 17. Baska and the Oregon Foster Youth Connection organizers said they agree that the timing is perfect, since May is National Foster Care Month.

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