A common perception of foster care is that of a single child being welcomed into a new home by their foster carers. However, a significant percentage of foster children are not only children but are also part of a sibling group. Siblings may be separated and end up in different foster homes. Doing this has significant adverse effects, with some foster agencies now working hard to make sibling fostering the norm.
Sibling fostering is where two or more siblings end up in the same foster home. By doing so, they seek to eliminate the separation that often leads to many issues.
In this article, we will look at why foster kids get separated, why it is important to keep them together, and some ways to make the situation better for everyone.
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One of the most common reasons is the lack of physical space. Many foster carers already foster other children and may only have one additional bedroom. Even in cases where foster children can share a bedroom, the space could be so small that it is not enough for two. The issue gets even more complicated when you consider the needs of teens and those nearing the age of 18 who want additional privacy and personal space.
Other reasons include age and gender. Siblings of different ages and genders have different needs, so
a foster care agency the local authority might place them in different homes to ensure their unique needs are met. Concerning gender, there is also the issue of safety as foster care agencies and local authorities want to ensure every foster child is and remains safe in their new home.
Lastly, siblings with medical needs may be placed in different foster homes because of the need for specialised care.
A child’s relationship with their sibling is usually the longest and most important one. Their sibling gives them a sense of family that informs their identity and makes them feel less alone in the world. Having family close is also important for making sense of who we are which is why children in sibling foster care homes typically have higher confidence and self-esteem.
Understanding all this, let’s look at the importance of keeping siblings together in more detail.
As mentioned, sibling relationships are the longest relationships most people have. They typically outlive partnerships, friendships, marriages and sometimes sibling-parent relationships. Siblings give us a long-term and continuing sense of who we are and where we come from. All of this makes them our most fundamental relationships.
Because of their importance, we must find ways to keep these relationships alive. Doing so is especially important for foster children and young people who might have trauma and thus rely on their siblings for security and support and may still be going through a lot even in their new foster homes. Remember, it takes some time for foster children to adjust to their new living environment and circumstances.
The best way of keeping these relationships alive is by ensuring siblings are not separated in foster care.
Sadly, some foster children have experienced trauma and thus may feel anxious in new environments and when they start living with new foster carers and foster siblings. Some feel guilty for not fixing things, especially if they are older, and might lose their sense of identity when separated from their birth families.
Ensuring that they remain with their siblings goes a long way in helping with some of these problems. Having a sibling who understands what you have been through and who has shared experience is invaluable, and this applies to foster siblings too.
Studies also show better performance in school, especially if siblings can help each other with school work and unquestionable protectiveness and care towards each other. Overall, the positive well-being effects of keeping siblings together in a foster home are undeniable.
Bonding with foster families and carers is also a lot less scary and easier if a foster child already has someone they know by their side. It has also been suggested that foster children and young people find it easier to form relationships in foster homes if they are in the same home as their sibling.
The ability to bond with their foster carers and foster families has also been linked to better stability and the permanency of foster care. Foster children who have not been separated from their siblings also show higher adoption, reunification and guardianship rates.
Maintaining sibling relationships is very important and foster carersshould ensure that children in care have opportunities to bond with their siblings. Indeed, it will be expected that foster carers facilitate regular contact with siblings. This can be achieved with regular days out, making birthday cards for siblings, video chats, etc. Details for contact between siblings will be provided in a child’s care plan from their foster agency.
Ensuring that more than two siblings end up in the same foster home is not always possible for the reasons discussed above. There is also a high demand for foster carers who can foster multiple siblings.
Foster carers with the space and who want to help can contact a foster care agency in their locality, such as ISP Foster Care in Kent, to enquire about fostering siblings. Even in cases where you can’t foster siblings, you can still foster a child in need of a loving, welcoming and stable home.
Separating siblings when finding foster homes for them is not always best as it can lead to serious negative effects now and in the future. For this reason, foster care agencies and local authorities are always looking to ensure this doesn’t happen, and now you can also play a part in ensuring it does not by becoming a foster parent.