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The Importance of Keeping Siblings Together When Fostering

The Importance of Keeping Siblings Together When Fostering

The foster care system has brought about a lot of much-needed relief for vulnerable children
in need of family homes where they can lead normal lives. Each year, the number of children
requiring foster care grows, far outmatching the available number of foster homes. In such a
crisis, many siblings entering the foster care system end up split into different homes where
they are barely in contact with each other. Between 2015 and 2018, nearly half of all siblings
placed into foster care were split up. Let’s dive into the reasons why this is an issue of great
concern.

Consider this; these children have already been uprooted from the home they know. Now in
that moment of fear and confusion, the one possible constant in their lives is having their
siblings along with them, which can prevent grief and stress.

Getting a child to settle down and embrace a new environment can be very tough, more so if
that child has siblings who have been separated away from. The absence of those familiar
faces may make it nearly impossible to fully recognise the new environment as his home.
Keeping siblings together will make the whole adjustment process easier.

Statistics have shown that siblings who are kept together have less trouble focusing on their
education and paying attention when in controlled environments like the classroom. This is
simply as a result of the comfort and assurance that comes through having a familiar face
around during otherwise traumatic changes.

By keeping siblings together, you easily ensure that they both have someone to confide in.
Those siblings can essentially act as each other’s therapists through simply talking about their
experiences, sharing their fears, and defending each other in their misdemeanours. Splitting
siblings can also have long-lasting psychological effect such as trust issues.

A research study by Emily Kernan, titled ‘Keeping siblings together: past, present, and
future,’ concluded that siblings have a much-heightened sense of belonging which, form a
strong part of their identity. Similarly, the child’s identity is also shaped by other factors such
as culture, language, religion, and race. Uprooting a child without the sibling means the child
will instantly lose all those identity features that they know. Whereas, having a sibling who
looks the same, talks the same, believes the same will help keep the child’s identity intact.

Despite all these key benefits that come with placing siblings together in foster homes, there
are indeed instances where separation can be recommended due to a variety of circumstances.
According to studies by Lord and Borthwick which they later published in their book,
Together or Apart, the following situations warrant the separation of siblings;
 Where serious sibling rivalry exists to the extent of resulting in the potential harm of
any of the children involved
 Where exploitative tendencies are observed in one or more of the siblings.
 Where one or more of the siblings is visibly bullied by the other to the point of
affecting his/her confidence and demeanour.
 Where the siblings have wilfully engaged in sexual activities among each other.
Apart for the few given exceptions, it is safe to conclude that keeping siblings together when
fostering is very important. Hopefully, the general foster parents’ perception of the issue will
gradually change, as well as the state of funding and support for foster families so that more
prospective and existing foster parents can be willing to care for siblings.

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