A Third of Foster Siblings are Forced to Live Apart
On 26th January, the BBC’s Education reporter Judith Burns relayed an arresting figure: “more than a third (37%) of children in care in England who have siblings” have to live apart from them, suggests research by a charity – The Family Rights Group (FRG). On top of that, Burns warns, “separating siblings could have ‘lifelong consequences’”.
She shows us how this issue is further compounded by children entering into residential care homes, with “almost three quarters of them [being] separated from their siblings”. This is contrasts with “only 8% of children” fostered by relatives facing the same split. At Perpetual Fostering, we recognise this fundamental difficulty in arranging placements all too well. When there is such a shortage of carers nationwide, the challenge of keeping siblings together becomes all the greater.
Burnes later goes on to cite legal guidelines on care: “the law places a duty on local authorities to place siblings together, so far as is reasonably practicable … based on ‘a clear presumption that this is … the best option for children going into care’”.
Aside from the legal side of the situation, she also outlines the emotional benefits of siblings staying together. There is a “great deal of reassurance” that siblings can and do provide for each other. This is especially the case when children have only recently been removed from their families. Add to this the fact that they may be brand new to the fostering process, and it’s clear just how complicated a situation this can be.
As an example, foster carers may have “no previous knowledge of what food” is preferred by the child, as well as what scares them, or “whether they have a particular soft toy at bedtime”.
In light of reporting these points, Burns outlines what the FRG hope for in future:
- “that greater efforts are made to keep siblings together, unless contrary to an individual child’s needs
- provide more support for separated siblings to keep in touch, including overnight stays
- publish regular data on siblings in care
- promote and support foster placements within the wider family group”
At Perpetual Fostering we hope this reinforces our core belief in the importance of high quality placements: every arrangement should be made to benefit the child as much as possible. We also hope, given the shortfall in foster carers across the country, that this issue can be addressed as soon as possible. Please do get in touch with us if you have any questions about your eligibility to foster – we’d love to hear from you.