Often, when a child is placed into care, it’s not uncommon that this child or young person also has a sibling in need of care. With around 80% of the UK population having at least one sibling, it’s fair to assume that a foster child will have siblings, too.
There is a high demand for foster carers who can take care of sibling groups – this is because in more than 200 UK local authorities, more than half of sibling groups in care are split up. The UK law states that siblings should be placed together in foster care where possible – and ‘if reasonably practicable and consistent with their welfare’ (The Children Act, 1989). However, unfortunately, sometimes this isn’t possible or feasible.
Why are siblings separated in foster care?
Separating siblings in foster care can often be caused by the following factors:
- Shortage of foster carers – ultimately, this is the main reason why siblings are separated in foster care. As the number of children in foster care rises, in turn, the demand for new foster carers rises, too.
- Shortage of space – one of the fostering requirements is that you must have a spare bedroom. It may be that shortage of space means there simply isn’t enough room for siblings – which is one of the main reasons why siblings are separated.
- Definition of sibling – does this include half-brothers and half-sisters? And step siblings? The definition of what is classed as a sibling could also be a reason.
- Large commitment for carers – taking on the responsibility of one child in care is a commitment alone. However, fostering sibling groups is a large investment of time, that carers simply may not be able to give.
- Behavioural difficulties – coming from experiences of abuse and neglect can often cause behavioural difficulties in children. This could mean that they are disruptive and cause problems – so in this instance, separating them from their sibling may be more beneficial for both children.
Reasons for keeping siblings together in foster care
There are many positive benefits of keeping sibling groups together in the same household. One of these is that fostering siblings has been associated with more positive adjustments into their new families. For example, studies have shown that older children taken into care and separated from their younger siblings can often have a difficult time feeling accepted, and in turn, accepting their new family. Yet, when they have a sibling by their side to share the journey with, this can generally make the transition a lot easier.
Being fostered with a sibling is also a huge support for children who have been removed from a violent or abusive home. This is because they can then band together with their siblings in a new, unfamiliar environment.
Can you foster sibling groups if you already have a child in care?
Yes, you can foster sibling groups if you already have a child in care or an existing child born into your family. However, this is often dependent on the space you have in your home. Siblings who are under the age of 10 can share a bedroom – whereas, if they are older or specified to need their own bedrooms, the children will need to have separate bedrooms.
Looking to start your journey as a carer fostering siblings? Get in touch with a member of our expert team here at FosterCare UK. We can provide help and advice on keeping siblings together in foster care, and provide specialist foster care training in order to do so.