Roberto (23) was separated from his brother when he was placed in youth care. Today, he joins SOS Children’s Villages Belgium in their efforts to keep siblings together. His testimony was presented to the federal parliament during a hearing in 2021 on a legal proposal to keep siblings together.
I am Roberto; I'm 23 years old and I live in Belgium. I was 10 when I was separated from my younger brother after we were placed in youth care.
When we got separated, I felt powerless and alone. My brother and I had been very close until then. We were in the same sports club, played football together, went to the park together, did everything together... And then suddenly he was not there anymore.
I was angry and rebellious against everyone—I knew my brother was too. I am sure that my brother would have been less rebellious had he been placed with me. He didn't listen to anyone anymore. Had I been with him and told him "Stop doing stupid things", he would have done so.
After being separated from my brother, I especially missed the little things: knowing my brother slept in the room next to me, playing together. I even missed arguing with him over who could use the PlayStation or which movie we would watch. I often thought: "Who am I going to get into trouble with now? Who am I going to argue with now?" You can argue with your siblings. But at the end of the day, when they will not be there anymore, you have lost a piece of yourself.
I can understand that it is legally and practically difficult to keep children together. But I sometimes felt more like a number rather than a human being.
I think it is very important that children themselves are involved in the decision to separate them from their siblings. Some brothers and sisters are better off not staying together. Some do not want to stay with their siblings. It is important to me that they are listened to, as human beings—that their desires and needs are listened to.
I want to speak out for the next generation. I hope things can be different for other children in care, so that there would be less damage added to a situation where there is already a lot of damage. Your siblings are often the only family members left when you grow up in youth care. If you are separated from them after losing your parents, you really feel alone. That is very hard and can cause major psychological problems.
Some children never go looking for that connection again once they leave care; it is a closed chapter for them. Fortunately, I still have a good relationship with my brother. We did everything we could to keep seeing and hearing each other. We always looked for each other. Today we are still learning so much from each other. My brother is still learning from me as his big brother, but I also learn from him. We are very grateful that we found each other back.
Instead of separating children from each other, we should keep them together, so that they can preserve their beautiful and strong family relationship.
Learn more about how SOS Children's Villages Belgium is working to keep siblings together.