More foster carers needed for sibling groups

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More foster carers needed for sibling groups

fostering sibling groups

A foster care shortage revealed: last year – according to available figures – it has been reported by the BBC that there has been a significant rise in the number of sibling groups being separated when they come into care. Last year the increase was around fifty percent in the number of brothers and sisters who are not living together. This is despite their care plan stating they should be. In England, this equates to almost two thousand children being deprived of experiencing a shared childhood. Why has this occurred? The obvious point is that there are not enough foster carers available to look after sibling groups. It also has to be said that there has been a general failure to recruit enough people to become foster carers – and this will include people willing to look after siblings. But this is a trend that has been rising steadily. And if the criteria in care plans are not being met, then this is a very serious situation. For two thousand siblings to be denied the chance to grow up together is particularly sad.

What has the recent Foster Care Stocktake to say on the fostering of siblings?

This makes for interesting reading: it is an obvious point that placing siblings together is not always appropriate and the report goes to considerable lengths to make it. It challenges the prevailing view – usually endorsed by the media – that it is always desirable to keep siblings together. The Stocktake report cites work done by Lord and Borthwick* from 2001 – then updated in 2009 – which highlighted certain conditions where siblings should be placed separately. Some of these are:

  • Intense rivalry and jealousy, with each child totally pre-occupied with, and unable to tolerate the attention their sibling(s) may be getting.
  • Exploitation, often based on gender, e.g. boys may have been seen and see themselves as inherently superior to their sisters, with a right to dominate and exploit them.
  • Chronic scapegoating of one child.
  • Maintaining unhelpful alliances in a sibling group and family of origin.
  • Maintaining unhelpful hierarchical positions e.g. the child may be stuck in the role of victim or bully.
  • Highly sexualised behaviour with each other.
  • BAAF ‘Good Practice Guide: Together or Apart? Assessing siblings for permanent placement’. Jennifer Lord and Sarah Borthwick.

In its recommendations (33.) the Stocktake report has this to say:

“As part of the assessment process when siblings enter care, individually or simultaneously, local authorities should not presume that keeping groups together is in the interests of all children in that groups. Instead they should consider the individual needs of each child and whether they are likely to thrive when placed together and whether it is possible for one set of carers to meet the developmental demands of the full sibling group.”

What is also interesting is that the report mentions “A number of fostering agencies in both the voluntary and the private sector have exploited public naivety about sibling separation to aid recruitment drives. Invariably they paint a rosy picture of fostering siblings which – at the very least – critically underestimates the challenge of caring for a sibling group.”

So why is this of interest? As is often the case, what is not said can be as significant – sometimes more so – than what is said. The Stocktake report seems heavily slanted toward focusing on the disadvantages of siblings being placed together. There is scant mention of what the benefits are. This sits uncomfortably with this recent BBC Report, which states simply that the fifty percent increase in brothers and sisters not living together is despite their care plan stating they should be.

Foster care could benefit from a national recruitment drive

Put very simply, we have a very real shortage of foster cares to look after a large number of siblings when it has been recorded they should be kept together in placement. This presents a bit of a problem for the authors of the Stocktake report as it makes clear there has been a failure to recruit enough foster carers. And there are reasons for this failure. There could, and should have been, a well funded and consistently run nationwide public awareness campaign centred on recruiting more foster carers. 

In the foreword to the Stocktake report, the Children’s Commissioner says:

“Our ambitions for foster children should be high. Children in foster care tell me that they want to live in a family that has the same expectations for them as they would have for their own children, with foster carers who do all they can to help their foster children succeed and thrive as they grow up.”

Are we living up to these ambitions if we are separating siblings who should be kept together? Especially when the sibling relationship is likely to be the longest over a lifetime.

The leading charity, The Fostering Network, has registered its concern at the upward trend that reveals more and more brothers and sisters are living apart in care. They make a call for all fostering services to do all that is possible to recruit foster carers with the requisite skills as well as space to offer homes to siblings. And that sufficient financial – as well as practical support – is there for siblings to be  cared for. Finally the charity states: “Central government must ensure that sufficient funding is in place to enable this to happen.”

Look into our ‘Rainbow Rewards’

We are keen to talk to anyone with an interest in becoming a foster carer. And anyone making a referral to us will be paid a £500 bonus once the person they referred has accepted their first placement. Rainbow are also keen to talk to existing approved foster carers who might be considering transferring. Our agency has been established for twenty years, so we have the expertise to make the transfer process simple and stress free. And you may also qualify for a special bonus.

Remember our message: If you care…foster care!

Foster care can be tremendously rewarding, but it can also be challenging. A greater number of  siblings now need to be found foster homes that enable them to stay together. If you have the interest, space and commitment to train to foster a sibling group we would love to hear from you.

If you have any questions relating to fostering, we will be more than happy to answer them. Some FAQs we get include – foster care pay, how to foster a child uk, foster care holiday allowance, foster carer requirements, foster care holiday allowance, how to become a foster carer uk and types of fostering.

Some good news at the end of our rainbow…we are eagerly anticipating the Muslim Lifestyle Show being held at Olympia, London this Saturday and Sunday. Rainbow will be there hoping to talk to people who may be interested in becoming foster carers – especially for sibling groups!

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