The foster care system can be a difficult experience for any child, especially if they are separated from their siblings. This is why it’s important to understand why keeping siblings together is important for their emotional well-being and long-term development as they go through the foster care system.
Unfortunately, it is estimated that around 37% of foster care siblings are placed apart. Given the growing number of children in care, this data is likely to increase. This means more children will have to deal with the negative consequences of being apart from their sibling, despite the importance and benefits of keeping them together.
The importance of keeping siblings together
Siblings share a unique bond that is unlike any other, which can deepen if they come from an abusive or troubling household. The stability and familiarity of their sibling could be the only thing that gives them support and comfort. Separating them could have serious consequences, such as long-term emotional damage.
It’s believed that when children experience trauma, they have a great difficulty trusting adults outside of their pre-existing bonds. As a result, they may become disruptive when living with their foster family. By keeping them with their sibling, they have a greater chance of adapting to this difficult change, which is essential for their wellbeing.
Outside of their familial bond, keeping siblings together is also important to maintain their historical and cultural identity. Children with different cultural or ethnic backgrounds to their foster carers might feel disconnected, making it harder for them to settle. Having their sibling around can help maintain their cultural and family connections, while also learning about new ones.
The benefits of keeping siblings together
There’s various evidence to support why keeping siblings together is important in foster care. Not only does it make settling into a foster home less traumatic, but it has also been proven to support their emotional wellbeing. Children placed with siblings are less likely to internalise their struggles, reducing the risk of depression and anxiety.
It’s also been shown that children who are kept with their siblings also have higher academic performance. This is often because of the comfort that their sibling provides them, allowing them to focus on other things. They have also been shown to have more developed social skills than other foster children.
Foster carers who care for siblings may also find they don’t feel overworked, as siblings often play and spend time together. This can allow foster carers to take breaks during the day and do other essential household tasks.
Why do siblings get separated?
At Compass, we never underestimate the value of keeping siblings together. However, there are instances where it may not always be in the best interest of the child. This occurs when there is a relationship difficulty, a significant age gap, or one sibling requires additional support.
There’s also the issue of how many siblings there are, and whether there are the right foster homes to accommodate them. Siblings may also enter care at different points, which can make it more difficult to place them together.
What happens if siblings are separated?
The importance of sibling relationships in foster care is never overlooked, even if they are separated. To ensure that children can maintain their relationship with their siblings, training is provided to social workers and foster carers. This training helps promote the importance of sibling relationships, and why they should be maintained.
It’s important to ensure siblings can contact each other if appropriate, with regular visits or days out. Foster carers should also be prepared to provide emotional support when needed, as a child separated from their sibling might be more unpredictable. This can be worse if a child is placed into care before their sibling, as they’ll likely be scared.
I want to foster siblings, but I only have one room
While we require foster children to have their own bedroom, same-sex siblings are an exception. This is subject to each local authority, and we will always assess whether it is in the best interest of the children. It’s likely to be considered if the siblings have previously shared a room, or if the bedroom in question is large enough. Some local authorities will only allow the siblings to share a room up to the ages of 9 or 11.
If you’re worried about only having one bedroom, you shouldn’t let it put you off the opportunity to foster siblings. It’s worth getting in contact to see if this option will be available to you, as it could be a chance to give siblings in care a loving and stable home.
Keeping siblings together in the foster care system will always be a priority here at Compass. By fostering siblings, carers can have a significant long-term impact on their wellbeing, allowing them to grow and thrive as a unit. If you decide to foster siblings with Compass, we will provide you with extensive training and support to help you become a confident carer.