Considering fostering siblings? There is an urgent need for foster carers who have room to place sibling groups. Keeping siblings together in foster care offers each child an extra layer of support and can reduce feelings of isolation.
Become part of our team and we’ll provide you with all the experience, skills, knowledge and support you’ll need. By fostering siblings, you’ll be able to see the positive changes that a loving home can bring to a child by becoming a foster carer with Capstone.
When looking at the UK’s general population, we can see that 80% of the population has at least one sibling. Since children taken into care by local authorities come from a cross section of the general population, it is reasonable to anticipate that many of them will be taken into care in a sibling group.
Across the UK, 86% of fostering services have a need for carers for sibling groups, proving the need for foster families who have the space and the ability to take in a small family of siblings. Think that could be you?
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Keeping siblings together in foster care
When fostering sibling groups, not only do you keep a family together, but there are also multiple other benefits to keeping siblings together in foster care:
4 reasons why siblings should be placed together
- Attachment – Our relationship with our siblings is usually the longest lasting relationship we will have in the family. We spend our earliest days with our siblings and as we grow older, we share our common history and memories until the day we die.
If you have doubts about the impact of our siblings on our personalities, think of all the emphasis on our position in the family; firstborns, middle children, babies of the family. This is how many of us define ourselves and our interaction with other people. It could be argued that we define ourselves in terms of our relationship to our siblings.
- Support – For children removed from an abusive or violent home, often the only support or sense of security that they have known comes from their siblings. They band together to protect themselves from their parents and they find their sense of belonging and comfort with each other. When the status quo, as bad as it might have been, is disrupted by being removed from the home, being able to remain with the sibling group provides security and cohesiveness.
When siblings remain together in foster care, they are not plagued by fears about each other and where they have been taken to and whether they will ever be reunited. As a part of a sibling unit, a child might not feel comfortable being alone. They can feel isolated and helpless without the support of their brothers and sisters.
- Accepting their new family – Studies have shown that older children taken into care and separated from their younger siblings often have a very difficult time with feeling like they are part of the foster family. The rupture of their own family is so overwhelming, it is possible that they are incapable of forming a bond with a foster family.
- Future happiness – Knowing that they will not be apart from their siblings, that they will be with someone they love, has been shown to have a very positive effect on their outcome in later life.
How great is the need for fostering sibling groups?
The short answer is that the need is huge and urgent. Here are some statistics that reveal just how many children in care, are part of a sibling group.
Across the UK, 86% of fostering services have a need for carers for sibling groups. So, there is a desperate need for foster families who have the space and the ability to take in a small family of siblings.
In spite of this demand for sibling fostering, it is not what usually happens. In 2018, the BBC reported at least 5,000 children in care were split from their siblings.
Separating siblings in foster care
Sometimes, it can be unavoidable to separate siblings in foster care.
- Timing – Whether to keep a sibling group together is often a matter of timing. If the brothers and sisters are taken into care at the same time, they stand a better chance of being placed together. Once they are placed together, they stand a better chance of remaining together in care.
- Age – Another factor is the age of the siblings. Younger siblings, especially if they are close in age and of the same gender are more apt to be placed together.
- Size – A larger sibling group is unlikely to be placed together although they have a strong possibility of being placed with at least one sibling.
- Behaviour and personality – Behavioural difficulties are another factor in splitting up a sibling group.
- Accommodation – Last but not least, the lack of foster families who are able to accommodate a sibling group is a major factor in separating a sibling group. It may even be said that this is the underlying reason for the separation of most sibling groups in foster care. While a sibling group may only include two children, it is just as likely to be 3 or 4 children or more. The larger the group, the rarer it is to have a foster home big enough to take them all in.
What environment do sibling groups need?
The first questions asked about prospective foster families is whether there is a separate bedroom for a foster child. It is a mandate of the fostering services that every child over the age of three has his or her own bedroom. Exceptions can be made. If the room is large enough, it is possible for siblings to share a bedroom. In some cases, this can provide comfort and security to the foster siblings who have been taken from their usual home and now find themselves in an unknown situation.
If foster carers have a spare double bedroom, bunk beds or two single beds can be set up for siblings to share. Local authorities insist that each child has his or her own space but when it comes to siblings, they accept that siblings up to the age of 10, or thereabouts, may share a bedroom. If foster carers have two spare rooms available, this is much better for fostering older children.
Can you foster siblings if you already have a child in care?
Again, it comes down to the space available in your home. If you have the room available so that each child has a separate room unless they are siblings under the age of 10, yes you may take in sibling groups even if you are already looking after a child in care or have a child born into your family.
Be aware that fostering siblings requires a lot of time as well as patience and understanding. Suddenly you must absorb the pain and fear of more than one child who is new to being fostered by you. You have to do this while maintaining equilibrium with the child already in your home.
When any fostering placement is made, the placements team works with the supervising social worker, they take into consideration the children already in your home as well as the space you have available. If you already have siblings in your care, the same process takes place if you wish to take in another child from a separate family. The important component is to place children where they have the best chance at thriving and avoiding placement breakdowns.
Are there negative aspects to fostering sibling groups?
It varies from sibling group to sibling group, but there are circumstances where it is advisable to not place a placing siblings in foster care together. Sibling groups are not always cohesive. Relationship difficulties between siblings can be caused by sibling jealousies or family dynamics.
The decision of whether there may be an issue in placing siblings together is made by a team who analyse the family dynamics. A specialist is available to work with the foster family or families and the children to make the most advantageous arrangement possible. The sibling relationship problems might only arise during the process of being taken into care. Patient parenting skills and loving support can overcome some of these issues.
If siblings are not placed together, foster carers are asked to support the children in a way that allows them to maintain contact with their brothers and sisters so they can continue to see one another and maintain a sibling relationship.
What support is available for carers fostering siblings?
In any emergency that causes children to be removed from their home, the emotional impact can be quite devastating. A social worker will be in attendance and a sibling group placement is discussed in advance of any decision. The fostering agency works closely with its foster carers. Because of this, the agency is aware of which foster carers have the space and the interest in providing a caring home to brothers and sisters.
Sibling groups are one of the most difficult placements – which is why Capstone offer expert fostering training and support. Sibling groups may be considered “harder to place”. Because of this, the placements team is constantly aware of the possibilities available. As mentioned above, one reason why siblings are not always placed together is the lack of a foster home that has the space. The recruitment efforts to expand the network of foster carers are constantly ongoing.
Why foster siblings?
One foster carer explained the benefits of fostering siblings:
“Fostering siblings has been an amazing experience for us. We are both from large families ourselves and so realise the importance of family. We would not have it any other way now, yes sometimes they clash but what siblings don’t, we just manage the situations and encourage positive relationships with each other.”
Sibling groups placed together experienced greater stability of placement and better mental health. It has been proven that they have better educational outcomes, which in turn leads to a more positive adulthood.
Better fostering for sibling groups
The primary solution for fostering more sibling groups is recruiting more foster carers who are capable of fostering sibling groups, and therefore, keeping siblings together in foster care. This means that more foster parents with bigger homes, and thus more bedrooms, are needed. Foster parents who take in a sibling group also need to have the experience in looking after different children, each of whom could have different needs. They also need to be able to make it possible for the children to have contact with other siblings who may have been placed in a separate foster home.
Fostering siblings can be demanding but the results of providing a happy home to children who may be frightened and taken away from the home they have known has been shown over and over again to be very positive.
Want to know more about fostering siblings? Get in touch with a member of our expert team today.
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