In the UK, 80% of children have at least one sibling. With children from a cross section of the general population being taken into care by local authorities, naturally many of these children will be part of a sibling group. There is an urgent need for foster families who have space and the ability to foster a small family of siblings. Across the UK, 86% of fostering services have a need for carers of sibling groups, but despite this, many children in care are split from their siblings.
By placing sibling groups together, you could offer these children even greater stability and support their mental health. The positive benefits are many – including better educational outcomes for children, extending into adulthood.
We spoke to two of our fantastic foster parents, Deborah and Brian Towey, who have been fostering for 2 years. Their current sibling group came to them in November 2019. Both Deb and Brian became full time foster carers to dedicate time to the twin girls and their little sister. We asked them about fostering a sibling group, and how their lives have changed.
● Extra support – by fostering siblings you’ll see first-hand the positive changes that the extra layer of support can provide to children. Crucially, by keeping children together, feelings of isolation are greatly reduced. Deb says, “‘Obviously at first the dynamic of having three children is your house is a bit of a culture shock, but they settled in very quickly. They’re lovely girls, right from the beginning they easily settled in.’
A sibling group can find comfort in one another as well as their foster parents. “The first month is that transition period as you’re getting used to each other, and they’re getting used to your routine, and you’re getting used to everybody’s personalities.”
● Not comfortable alone – as part of a sibling unit, a child may feel more comfortable joining a new family. While fostering siblings can be hard work, the results of giving two children from the same family a happy home have shown to be very positive. “The two twins like similar things but they’re completely different. One of them is very quiet and shy, she’s coming out of her shell a lot more, but her sister is the confident louder one. We spend time together with them as a family, but also, we try to share time amongst them fairly, so we all get time alone with one another too.”
● Belonging – the comfort and security of being placed in a foster family along with a biological sibling can help a child to settle, as the only support or security they have ever known remains intact – the child is likely to be less frightened and not worried about whether they will ever be reunited with their brother or sister. This is particularly true of children who have come from violent or abusive homes.
Adapting to family life
● Difficulties – studies have shown that older children in particular often struggle to feel part of a family. The dividing of their own family is so overwhelming that it can impact them and prevent them forming a bond with their foster family. Keeping children together creates instant reassurance and familiarity and can significantly help a child settle into a new home. It can also help them to embrace their new surroundings.
Deb says, “We have a big family, they see their birth family and they get given lots of things. Being three girls in the house, they have a lot of toys and clothes. We have to sit down with them and go through and pick what’s for charity. We talk about how other children don’t have as much as them or as many nice things and we choose things to give away to help.”
● A bright future – for those children in sibling groups who are kept together, the opportunity to continue to share the relationship can allow siblings to thrive. Their wellbeing is boosted, making them happier overall. This has very positive effects on the outcome of a child’s life.
Fostering siblings can be hugely rewarding, and it isn’t just the children that benefit but also you, the foster parent. The difference foster parents can make is remarkable. While they may have had a few less holidays, Deb said that she wouldn’t go back to her and her husbands ‘old life’. “We love seeing them having fun. They have filled our house and lives with fun, laughter, cuddles, drama and given us insight into the world through their eyes, which is full of resilience, hope, joy and finding fun in everything they do.”
When you become a foster carer with Compass Fostering, you will be supported every step of the way. We provide training, resources and a supportive community to help you become a confident carer – get in touch to find out more.