In response to the Action for Children freedom of information findings on siblings in care released this weekend, Jackie Sanders, director of communications and public affairs at The Fostering Network, said:
“Our relationships with our brothers and sisters are often some of the most important and longest lasting of our lives. Yet children in care, already dealing with the trauma of being separated from their parents, are all too often split up from their siblings as well. Sometimes brothers and sisters will be separated because it is in their best interests, but in general finding a foster family that can keep siblings together is crucial.
“There are tens of thousands of fantastic foster families right across the UK. But the challenge for fostering services is to find the enough people who have the skills and qualities to foster, and also have the time, space and energy to offer homes to groups of brothers and sisters. Where siblings can’t be kept together, it’s crucial that fostering services and foster families work hard to keep them in contact with each other wherever possible.”
The Children Act 1989 requires local authorities in England and Wales to place a child with their siblings ‘if reasonably practicable and consistent with their welfare’. Similar legislation exists in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
A survey of over 1,200 foster carers by The Fostering Network in 2013 found that, in the previous two years, one-third (34 per cent) of foster families had looked after children whose brothers and sisters had been placed elsewhere, despite their care plan saying that they should stay together, because the fostering service couldn’t provide a suitable home where they could all live together.
The Fostering Network estimates that a further 8,600 foster families are needed across the UK in the next 12 months alone, with a particular need for foster carers for teenagers and disabled children as well as sibling groups. Anyone wanting to find out more about fostering can visit www.couldyoufoster.org.uk or contact their local fostering service.