When you’re thinking of becoming a foster parent, part of your assessment and training will cover your suitability for fostering siblings. Along with a room for each child, fostering groups of children often requires extra time, enthusiasm and energy to meet the needs of each individual child. Foster carers who can accommodate child groups are in great demand. In fact, an Action for Children campaign launched in 2014 revealed that one third of siblings placed in foster care are separated.
Local authorities in England and Wales are required by the Children Act 1989 to place children with their siblings ‘if reasonably practicable and consistent with their welfare’ and legislation in Scotland and Northern Ireland outlines similar rules. However, it’s not always easy to find suitable placements for siblings and alongside substantial benefits of staying together, there can also be complications to consider.
How is fostering siblings together beneficial for the children?
One of the most obvious benefits of homing brothers and sisters together is that they will often provide comfort and reassurance for one another at what can be a very difficult time. This mutual support can make them feel safer and evidence suggests that siblings really value the connections they have with each other, which can provide a sense of continuity and belonging.
When siblings are separated it can cause feelings of grief and anxiety. Concern about brothers and sisters, and how they are coping and whether they are being cared for properly elsewhere can make it difficult for children to settle into their own foster homes.
Depending on the circumstances, being placed separately may make it difficult for siblings to maintain contact and preserve their connection. Siblings who are separated long term can find it difficult to maintain a sibling bond, which is something that can be really valuable to them when they leave foster care and continue their lives as an adult.
What type of issues can surface when fostering siblings?
Sibling placements are not always simple. There are a few problems that you may face when fostering siblings:
- Older children in sibling groups may be used to caring for younger children and find it difficult to relinquish tasks associated with being their caregiver.
- Sometimes behaviour learned from parents may be exhibited with sibling groups and jealousy can also surface on occasion.
- In certain circumstances, it may be inappropriate to place siblings together because it does not represent the best option for the welfare of the children.
- It’s also worth remembering that a child’s own definition of who they see as a sibling may differ. They may feel close to a half or step-sibling and want to maintain relationships with them if they are in or outside of foster care.
If you’re concerned about behaviour displayed between siblings you are fostering or you’d like to discuss maintaining contact between siblings, your NFA network support team are your first point of contact and are on call 24/7 to offer help and advice.
If you think you might be able to provide sibling groups with a caring and nurturing home, please get in touch with our friendly team of fostering advisers.