Mission Statement: SIBS NJ, Supportive Initiatives for Brothers & Sisters, is a non-profit organization based in New Jersey dedicated to providing the siblings of individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities and mental health conditions with information and support. Comprised and organized by siblings and sibling supporters, SIBS NJ seeks to help siblings connect with one another and to the resources they need to help them and their siblings with disabilities live full, meaningful lives.
Purpose: The organization is in its growing stages, and the fun of building the foundation began in May of 2014. The co-founders of this organization wanted to help provide a nurturing environment for siblings of individuals with special needs and mental health challenges to come together to support one another and advocate for their siblings and themselves. The needs of siblings are diverse and significant to the family system when it comes to the family of an individual with special needs, thus the organization was founded in order to help siblings navigate their roles and the service delivery system. Likewise, SIBS NJ travels the state for meetings and holds them in various locations, coming into communities and making information accessible rather than asking people to travel to one location that may not be convenient for many families.
History: As sisters and sibs themselves to a young woman with autism named Katie, Kara and Kristen Sellix, two of the founders of SIBS NJ, recognize the unique and nuanced experiences sibs encounter across the lifespan. Growing up they were lucky to have each other, but they didn’t have the opportunity to meet and connect with other sibs until later on in life. They have faced many challenges as well as great experiences due to having a sister with autism, and they decided that they had to do something to help other sibs who were going through similar experiences. After working in the field of social work as interns, volunteers, and simply hearing the stories and struggles of families of children and adults with special needs in their community, Kara and Kristen felt compelled to do something. They joined forces with several other siblings and sib supporters from various backgrounds and fields, and SIBS NJ was born. In July 2014, SIBS NJ became the NJ Chapter of the Sibling Leadership Network (SLN)
What We Do:
– Host “pop-up” groups for siblings ranging from children to adults to help them discuss their sibling roles and identify support from other siblings
– Educate support staff in schools and non-profit agencies on how they can better support siblings within the family system when working with families of individuals with I/DD or mental illness
– Host or co-sponsor groups for organizations upon request
– Organize events for siblings at various locations such as “Wine and Paint Night” socials and sibling happy hours to increase siblings’ personal network of support