Foster care for sibling groups: the key issues explored

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Foster care for sibling groups: the key issues explored

Foster care and sibling children

Foster care needed for sibling children

For everyone concerned with the process, of providing foster care, it’s well known that it’s important for siblings groups to remain together where possible. This is what siblings want themselves. They say so. But there are circumstances where siblings cannot be placed together. This is usually because there may be concerns about certain patterns of behaviour or risk. Social workers always strive to keep siblings under the same roof. This is because they know that for a child, contact with his or her siblings can retain what they most value in family life.

Placing siblings together does not always guarantee better outcomes for the children concerned. No two cases are alike – judgements always have to be made. One particular study advises against putting children from sexually abusive families in the same placement. 

It can still be far from straightforward when the decision has been made to place siblings in the same foster home. Sibling groups can present widely differing needs which can be hard for a foster family to meet. Sibling rivalry can be an issue: some siblings may not get on well together and there may be jealous tendencies to deal with. And if the decision is made to place a child away from their siblings, this can result in other complex issues arising – especially if the child has been neglected, rejected or abused at home.

When siblings become separated it can bring about feelings of grief and anxiety. The natural concerns brothers and sisters will have for one another can be stressful. A child might worry about their sibling – whether they are being cared for properly and how they might be coping. Worries about whether a sister or brother is unhappy can make a child who is separated experience difficulty in settling into their own foster home.

Foster care for siblings can deliver good outcomes.

There are studies that indicate successful outcomes when siblings who are emotionally close are placed together. Positive results suggest:

  • children who are in placement away from their siblings are more likely to have experienced rejection at home; this can encompass neglect and different forms of abuse;
  • relationships between siblings can yield both positive and negative effects on their placements;
  • when a child in placement has siblings that are still at home thin have a disruptive effect making it hard for the child to settle;
  • if siblings are placed apart they are less likely to have stable placements. 

When it is possible to keep children together the benefits can be tangible. It has to be easier and less daunting for a child if they can adjust to being in a new home having their siblings with them. They will not feel completely alone and will feel greater comfort and reassurance during what can be a stressful and difficult time. This can also make things easier for the foster carer(s) because children who stay together feel reassured and are less likely to be insecure. This means their behaviour is less likely to be challenging and difficult giving the placement a better chance of being secure and stable.

What foster carers need to take into account about sibling groups.

When welcoming a sibling group into a foster home, there are certain important considerations. The first and obvious one is practical: space. Sibling groups can number more than two children. This can mean; in the case of a large sibling group, particular consideration will need to be given to the sleeping arrangements. Food and cooking arrangements will also need to be addressed. Foster carers who look after siblings will certainly need a lot of energy. Especially if they have a larger sibling group – perhaps of over three children. So plenty of days out and trips out will work wonders in burning up all that youthful energy. It’s also true that children in a sibling group can often keep themselves entertained playing together.

The importance of being organised. 

Looking after a sibling group will mean there is simply more to organise. Foster carers will obviously have more records to keep. There will be doctors and dentist appointments to make as well as school functions to attend. And school runs can take quite a lot of organising: if all the children are at the same school, this is obviously a lot easier. And where some of the siblings might be older teenagers who can make their own way to school, arrangements will be easier to make.

One of the most common things said about looking after a sibling group is that you get an ‘instant family’. This is true, but it is still worth being aware of certain pitfalls. Older children in a sibling group may have become used to looking after their younger siblings. They may find it difficult or unsettling to relinquish the care and responsibility they have assumed. It is always a good idea to remember that there can be very individual patterns of behaviour within a sibling group. A child may have a different idea as to who they see as a sibling. In some cases, some children feel closer to a half-sibling.

The value of caring for a sibling group.

There can be no doubt that foster carers who open their homes to a sibling group are playing a vital role in keeping a family together. When siblings become separated – especially over the long term – it can be almost impossible to keep that special bond intact. When foster carers keep that sibling bond intact, this can be of enormous value when children begin their adult lives. In fact, providing foster care for siblings means carers help keep the relationships brothers and sisters have intact over their entire lifetimes. Could there be a greater gift?

Fostering a sibling group means there will also be financial implications to be thought about and then managed. Looking after a group of children will require strong management and organisational skills. It will sometimes require extra energy, commitment and enthusiasm to meet the emotional and practical needs of each child. Social workers will always work hard to support foster carers with a sibling placement as they are aware of the significant benefits of keeping children together.

The care of siblings is rising up the political agenda in the United  Kingdom. In March of 2019, The Fostering Network welcomed the announcement by the Minister for Children and Young People in Scotland, Maree Todd MSP, that there were plans in place to strengthen the law regarding keeping siblings together when it is in their interests to stay together. 

The director of The Fostering Network, Sara Lurie stated: “Coming into care can be extremely scary and traumatic for children and young people, and being separated from brothers and sisters can compound this. We are delighted, therefore, that the Scottish Government is bolstering the law so that placing brothers and sisters together when they come into care, is given a higher priority than is currently the case. We are especially pleased to see recognition of the importance of brothers and sisters who are not able to live together being able to keep in touch. We know these relationships are vital to the wellbeing of children in care.” For more on this


Train to foster siblings with Rainbow Fostering.

Providing any type of foster care is one of the most rewarding things that you can do. But should you consider fostering siblings you will be doing immensely valuable work? This is because there is a real shortage of foster parents for child groups. Sadly, an Action for Children’ campaign launched back in 2014 found that one-third of siblings that were placed in foster care became separated. So be in no doubt, there is a real demand for foster carers to look after sibling groups.

We are an independent fostering agency that has been finding loving, secure homes for vulnerable children for over 21 years. Rainbow has also been rated ‘Outstanding’ in all areas by Ofsted. This means that we are confident we can offer the very best in terms of training and support to all our foster carers. Rainbow is now looking to find more applicants in London, Birmingham, Manchester and the Hampshire area. We have the highest standards of professionalism and support all our foster carer round the clock, 365 days a year. And if you want to train as a therapeutic foster carer and qualify for enhanced payments, Rainbow will support all your ambitions. Foster carers who are trained to look after sibling groups will also qualify for enhanced payments. 

Please don’t forget our ‘Rainbow Rewards’ scheme.

Rainbow is currently paying a bonus of £500 to anyone referring someone to foster with us. Payment will be made when the person referred has completed their training and accepted their first placement. People who are already fostering and who might be thinking if a change can talk to us about the benefits of fostering with Rainbow. A bonus for people transferring to Rainbow is payable under certain conditions – please call for details. 

You can talk with one of our advisers on 020 8427 3355 or 0330 311 2845 We promise to take all the time necessary to explain the realities and the rewards of fostering. There is no obligation or pressure to make a decision.

Rainbow fostering news  can be found at And a recommendation for an interesting blog

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