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Focus on foster care: fostering siblings

Friday 10 September 2021

If you’re interested in becoming a foster carer, there are many different types of fostering to suit your individual circumstances.

Sibling foster care might be a good choice for you. It’s very much in demand, for reasons you’ll find out.

“This is my first experience of being a foster carer and I wouldn’t change a thing. I have the privilege of looking after two little boys who are full of energy”

– Carole, sibling foster carer.

What is sibling foster care?

This is where brothers and sisters who can’t live at home are placed with the same foster carer or fostering family. They may initially come into foster care as an emergency or for short-term or long-term care.

Local authorities and fostering agencies do whatever they can to keep sibling groups together, where appropriate. However, it’s not always possible.

Last year, a BBC File on 4 Freedom of Information request to the Department of Education revealed that around half of fostered siblings are split up.

This is due to several reasons, including a shortfall in foster carers across the UK, especially those suitable for looking after siblings. So, we’re urgently looking to recruit more sibling foster carers.

“We say we’re ‘fraud foster carers’ because we’ve only ever had one placement. The children were so young and came to us in as an emergency. We never expected they would stay but they have and they are doing really well”

Jessica, sibling foster carer whose foster children arrived unexpectedly only days before Christmas three years ago.

Why do we need sibling foster carers?

If you have brothers and sisters yourself, you’ll know how important the relationship between siblings can be.

Imaging being taken into foster care with your siblings as a young person. It is often a difficult and stressful time and remaining together can be such a source of comfort, helping to create a sense of stability and belonging.

Siblings who are with different foster families may worry about their brothers and sisters and whether they are being properly looked after.

By contrast, keeping siblings together in a foster family may help them to settle down and develop healthy new patterns of relating within a safe and supportive environment.

“You see young people who’ve come from a crappy place, often with no real social skills, start to grow in confidence, put down roots in their new family and community, make friends, thrive. It is astounding”

Nathan and Anthony, who are fostering siblings on a long-term placement.

What does it take to be a sibling foster carer?

  • As with any type of fostering – love, empathy, compassion, humour, patience and a desire to make a difference to young people who’ve had a difficult start in life.
  • Sibling foster carers need to be comfortable caring for more than one child and undaunted by the challenges this may bring.
  • Room for everyone – you also need to have a spare room to foster a child and, generally, all foster children need a room of their own, even siblings.

What training and support do sibling foster carers receive?

Our foster carers receive a generous package of pay and allowances, plus perks and benefits to help the household budget go further.

We offer free specialist training to give everyone the skills and confidence they need to support vulnerable young people.

This begins with our foundation Skills to Foster programme and includes a whole range of specialist training courses, some of which are mandatory and some of which foster carers can opt to do.

All foster carers have regular contact with their supervising social worker and the support of their wider local team, including therapeutic care professionals, psychologists and more. Carer support groups add to the feeling that you’ve got a strong, supportive family at your back.

“Mr & Mrs W were anxious about looking after a sibling group of four children… By involving the whole team around the children, the foster carers were provided with the support and guidance that they needed to meet the needs of the children and enable them to remain together”

– Karen, a supervising social worker.

How long will it take to be approved as a sibling foster carer?

It normally takes around four months to become approved as a foster carer as – it’s a very detailed and thorough process.

However, with more than 8,000 children nationally waiting for foster carers, National Fostering Group has pioneered a faster way of getting certain people approved.

This fast-track process can take as little as two months in some cases. It isn’t about cutting corners, but using online and virtual platforms, prompt checks, and more intensive meeting schedules to achieve faster approvals.

Read about Joe’s experience

Joe’s story – from policeman to fostering siblings’ shares how this former policeman discovered a new sense of direction by becoming a foster carer after he retired and his own daughters had left home.

He fosters three siblings, the youngest of whom was just a baby when the children arrived at midnight after being taken into police protection. Joe has created a regular routine and a structured, stable home and the two girls and a boy have come on in leaps and bounds.

Want to foster siblings?

As you’ve read, fostering siblings is challenging and also immensely rewarding. Interested? Contact your local team for a chat or more information.

Find out if you could be a foster carer
Find out if you could be a foster carer
In a few simple questions, you’ll know if you’re suitable to apply to become a foster carer.