One in three children split from siblings in foster care, finds Action for Children

Charity's research found nearly half (45%) of sibling groups were separated in the East Midlands between April 2013 and March 2014

Photo: Voisin/Phanie/Rex Features (Posed by model)

One third of the 11,082 children placed in foster care last year had been separated from their siblings, according to research by Action for Children.

A Freedom of Information request submitted by the charity found 3,598 children in care (one in three) had been separated from their siblings.

There were geographical variations, with 45% of sibling groups split up in the East Midlands between April 2013 and March 2014.

Community Care Inform
Read the CC Inform Children guide for social workers and assessing the impact of separation on siblings.

Action for Children’s chief executive, Sir Tony Hawkhead, said: “For many children, being taken into care can be a confusing and upsetting time; add the distress of being split up from your brother or sister into the mix and the impact will last a lifetime.”

He highlighted the national shortage of foster carers who are prepared to look after siblings and said a dedicated pool of people who can provide a loving and caring home to groups of children needs to be established.

A poll by the charity found over half of children who had been split from their siblings and live in foster care were upset and angry about it.

John Simmonds, director of policy, research and development at the British Association for Adoption and Fostering, said he was not surprised by the figures.

“I think everybody will be very concerned to see that is the case, but it probably does reflect the feeling that is on the ground.”

Simmonds commented on the “well established” housing crisis making it difficult for sibling groups to find homes together as they need to have the accommodation to do so. He also spoke about the significant amount of resources it takes to house sibling groups.

He called for “creative thinking” to be part of the solution. “Central government, local government, independent fostering providers, there needs to be some kind of coming together to explore it in a more proactive and creative way,” he said.

Sue Kent, professional officer at the British Association of Social Workers (BASW), said: “Social workers report that council fostering teams are so stretched that there is an emphasis on placing children within their own local authority, rather than with external providers who may be best placed to support a larger sibling group but who may cost more.”

BASW members have told of placements outside the local authority coming to an end regardless of the child’s needs, Kent said.

She also warned spending cuts are effecting the workforce which does not have enough capacity in the system to get foster carers who could offer accommodation to sibling groups assessed quickly enough.

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3 Responses to One in three children split from siblings in foster care, finds Action for Children

  1. Tina September 11, 2014 at 2:19 pm #

    I’m a foster carer. I only have one spare room. I often take in a child who has other siblings and have been split, for that reason. Since the policy of one child per room and maximum of three children only per placement (apart from exeptions) as well has further taken bed space away from the vast amount of children needing placements.

    • Delma Hughes September 12, 2014 at 1:21 am #

      Siblings Together Charity have been campaigning & running for the past 6 years, we have developed a number of programmes to support and reunite siblings in a safe fun highly creative, active, adventurous, memorable environment.
      We have piloted monthly activity days with drop in centres across London for the past 3 years.
      We run fantastic residential camps for up to 25- 30 siblings with ratio of support 2-1…We have also recently Launched our Siblings Buddying programme which is an incredible project unique to the UK.
      We are a small but hugely effective team, pioneering and developing effective long term programmes specifically to help siblings maintain essential links, vital lifelong relationships. We have a dedicated, varied volunteer network with regular mentors who are committed to helping siblings keep connected!.

  2. Lynne Brosnan September 18, 2014 at 4:39 pm #

    Legislation doesn’t help this situation. One child per room hasn’t helped where as a foster carer could have taken siblings in a lot of cases they can’t. There is also the issue of how many children a foster carer can take, if there are four children for instance one would have to go elsewhere. One of my bedrooms is bigger then a double room it adequately had three beds, two wardrobes and two sets of drawers with still more space that my three boys slept in comfortably until they grew and left home but now I am only allowed to have one child in that room. I have had two foster children in there until the latest legislation. There is no logic sometimes.