Foster care for sibling groups

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Foster care for sibling groups

There is a national shortage of foster carers; this year an additional 7,000 foster families are needed. Behind this blanket figure, however, there are particular groups for which it is especially hard to recruit foster carers for. We shall be looking at each of these groups to explain the particular aspects of providing foster care for them.

Sibling groups coming into care can represent a significant challenge for a Local Authority in terms of keeping them together. Because of the shared experiences siblings will have, this can give them comfort and support when they come into care. They also have relationships which need to be kept intact: all this means that it is very important to make every attempt to keep siblings together. Caring for siblings can be challenging, but it can also be extremely rewarding. Providing foster care for brothers and sisters is like suddenly having a ‘ready – made’ family. But as is the case with all children coming into foster care, siblings may also have experienced abuse and neglect. There can be a host of complex issues and no two cases are the same. It is not uncommon for the eldest sibling to have ‘parented’ their younger brothers and or sisters. They may have particular health issues that need to be addressed – this can include delayed development.

It is not always appropriate to keep siblings together. Sadly, it may not always be possible. when they can be kept together, this can play a vital role in maintaining their physical and emotional wellbeing. Children are more likely to settle and begin to make progress if they are kept with their brothers and sisters. This is especially the case if they share an emotional bond.

Research into sibling groups

Research has indicated that for a good many foster children, it is the relationship with their brothers and sisters that they value most. For this reason, social workers will always, where appropriate, aim to find foster carers who can provide a home where the children can be kept together. This is because it is the children themselves who will often say that the relationships with their siblings are the most important thing that they have. Sadly, sometimes there is no option but to separate them when they go into foster care: this can be the most painful aspect of them being placed in care. Again, as no two situations are ever the same, it is not uncommon for some sibling groups to enter foster care at different times. This is because it is the children themselves who will often say that the relationships with their siblings are the most important thing that they have. Sadly, sometimes there is no option but to separate them when they go into foster care: this can be the most painful aspect of them being placed in care. Again, as no two situations are ever the same, it is not uncommon for some sibling groups to enter foster care at different times.

The consequences of splitting up sibling groups in foster care

When siblings are split up this can trigger feelings of loss and abandonment. This can then have significant consequences for the emotional and mental well being of the siblings concerned. Feelings of anger, resentment and upset, maybe common. When siblings are placed apart, the placements are less likely to be stable. This can produce negative effects in the short, medium and long term. Some of these may include increased risk of poor educational performance and problems in adulthood. These can include homelessness, unemployment, drug and alcohol addiction – as well as falling foul of the penal system.

Types of sibling groups

It should be remembered that children are not always full biological siblings. It I can be common for half siblings to be living in the same home. In some cases, children may not be biologically related at all, but regard themselves as ‘brothers and sisters’ because they have lived together for a long time. Brothers and sisters may have other relationships to be considered – such as between grandparents and other relatives. In rarer cases, siblings may not want to be together.

The difference in ages between siblings can also be a major consideration: two teenagers close in age will require a very different approach from; for example, four siblings all under the age of ten. Again, no two sets of circumstances are ever the same.

Where the children’s relationships with their parents have broken down – which may have been the result abuse or neglect – the bonds between the siblings can be very strong. It may be that their relationship, in what could have been a chaotic and disorderly home, may be the only constant they have ever known. Although it is widely recognised through research that the bonds between siblings can be extremely important, it is a sad fact that for many separation occurs when they come into care.

Research into sibling groups in foster care

In some situations, siblings will not share a placement as negative patterns of behaviour may have become established. It might be that there is a history of sexualised behaviour, or aggressive violent behaviour.

Research into sibling placements

The research that has been conducted indicates certain clear cut results that show:

children who have been put in placement away from their siblings, are more likely to have experienced rejection whilst living at home;

children who have been placed apart, are more likely to have experienced abuse or neglect;

relationships between brothers and sisters can have both positive and negative effects on their subsequent placements;

children who have other siblings still at home, are more likely to experience a disrupted placement;

            Children who have experienced rejection and then been placed apart, are less likely to have stable placements than if they had been placed together;

Generally, sibling groups can range from 2 to 5 children – where more children are involved, the group may sometimes be split in two.  This can be along gender lines, or proximity of age.


Summary and why the need for foster carers for siblings is a matter of urgency

In the UK there is now a serious lack of foster carers generally. There is a particular shortage of foster carers for sibling groups. For the most part, where brothers and sisters can be kept together, there can be huge benefits for them. When a sibling group can be kept together, theirs is a shared experience of fostering. This means that life experiences are shared which, through memories,  creates a sense of shared identity. This can provide a tremendous sense of security and stability, which can make all the difference to their future lives. When children enter the care system, staying with their siblings can enhance their feelings of safety and well-being. Being able to stay together , provides the most natural form of mutual support. Relationships between siblings are powerful emotionally. This means they are vital, not only during childhood, but over the course of a lifetime. Such relationships are usually the longest most people experience over the course of a lifetime – so there can be no greater gift than keeping them intact. The joint history that siblings have, maintains bonds – along with continuity of identity and experience. Being a sibling – especially if the group is large – bestows membership of a child’s very first peer group. In this setting, they will learn a wide range of social skills – especially those concerning negotiation, sharing and the management of conflict. Such benefits are in stark consequence to the consequences; which are often traumatic, of separation. These can create; amongst other affects – anxiety, disorientation, grief as well as worry over the well-being of their brothers and sisters.

Foster carers! Check out our news stories

Foster carers make a difference in Cumbria

October 31st, 2017

The vital role that is being played by foster carers in helping care leavers achieve the best outcomes is being focused on during National Care Leavers’ Week – which finishes this Friday. Cumbria County Council has responsibility for two hundred and seventy five care leavers aged between sixteen and twenty five. They are provided with support and help as they get ready to make the move to independent living (more)

Foster care for sibling groups

Foster care for siblings

Could you qualify for a ‘Rewards’ bonus?

At Rainbow we make every effort to attract experienced foster carers so we are happy to pay a bonus of £500 if you are fostering and are in a position to refer someone to become a foster carer. Once the first placement has been made following your referral, the bonus will be paid.

If you are already an approved foster carer – with a long term foster placement – and considering transferring, we can make the move a smooth and easy process. And, if you join us, you may also be eligible for a special bonus.

Be a foster carer in 2018

Whatever your faith, background, status or personal situation, we will be delighted to chat with you and help you join our team of fantastic foster carers. You can talk to us about all sorts of subjects to do with foster care such as – how much do private foster care agencies pay their foster carers? Can I foster if I am gay? What benefits can be claimed if I am a foster carer? Or how long does it take to become a foster carer? We would like to point out that there are many benefits if you foster with Rainbow: these include –

  • highly professional and well qualified staff to guide you through the assessment process;
  • the opportunity to develop a career and be treated as a foster care professional;
  • regular invites to friendly support groups for foster carers and their children.

And the good news at the end of this fostering Rainbow…celebrating the last of this month’s birthdays. Happy Birthday to everyone who had a birthday this October!

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