The Importance of Maintaining Sibling Relationships in Foster Care

Author: TACT

Tags: Fostering siblings

As you may already know, many biological siblings in the UK foster care system end up being separated from each other and going to different foster homes. There are several reasons for this, the most common being that there aren’t enough foster carers with enough space to offer. But evidence shows that siblings who are able to stay together (or at least be in a lot of contact) benefit hugely from the bond remaining intact. 

The most common reason for siblings being separated is a lack of space in foster homes. Many foster carers only have one spare bedroom, so even if two siblings can share, there still may not be enough room if there are three or more siblings. Sometimes larger sibling groups are split into multiple groups so that they at least remain with one sibling, but often they are put into foster homes on their own. Reasons for this may be to do with the individual child’s needs or the capacity and skill of the foster carer. Even if there is physical space, the foster carer may not have the specialised abilities required for each child’s unique needs. Whilst sometimes necessary, this is a really tough call to make, because often separating siblings can cause more difficulty for them and a huge sense of loss. 

Siblings in foster care often have very strong bonds. For them, the only ones who truly understand the feeling of being removed from everything they have ever known is each other. Especially for older siblings; when parental care is absent or inadequate, they will often have taken on a parental role. So, when separated, they can often feel very much like their brother or sister has been removed from their protection, whilst a younger sibling may feel as if the only one who cares for them has been taken away. Attachments are strengthened even further by trauma bonding, which is a strong connection that forms when children and young people have gone through an intense and difficult experience together.

Evidence shows that the outcomes achieved by keeping siblings together where possible have been positive. Children will often accept a new caregiver (foster carer) more quickly if they have been able to remain with their sibling/s, as they are able to keep a sense of what they know as ‘home’ around, which makes adjusting easier. Being separated means constantly worrying about how their sibling is doing in their new home, with fears of them being unhappy or in danger. This anxiety can stunt their own growth and healing and makes it more difficult to feel at home and focus on themselves. 

It is not always safe for siblings to remain together, but wherever possible an effort must be made to allow them consistent and frequent contact. Whether that be in person, over video calls or even sending letters and gifts back and forth, it is important for them to know about each other’s lives and continue to have an important bond, where they can understand each other and feel safe with one another. 

All in all, what is absolutely vital is the search for more foster carers who can accommodate sibling groups. In most cases, the best outcome for siblings in care is to stay together in the same family unit, but that is not possible without foster carers who have the space and experience. We are often asked what the requirements are for fostering siblings. Well, having raised siblings before helps, as does having the time and capacity to equally nurture each child. What’s most important is the amount of love and commitment you have to give to those who need it. In the end, you will benefit from the huge positive effect it has on their lives, as they adjust to change more easily, and blossom and thrive together. If you foster with TACT, we will provide all of the finances, support and training you will need.

If you think you could help keep siblings together, please enquire with us today and click here to learn more about fostering sibling groups.