The story touches on a renewed drive to find families who can foster separated sibling groups, and goes on to highlight that extra financial help will be available in some circumstances – although no specific details were disclosed about the criteria for eligibility or the application process. Agencies such as Family Care remunerate carers for each child in the home, as opposed to a payment per sibling group or per household. For instance, carers who foster with Family Care can expect to receive between £335-£435/week for each child they care for; whether that is a sibling group of 3 or a single child. The remuneration package does also vary depending on the needs of the young person.
Caring for siblings is something which attracts many people to enquire about fostering, as the importance and benefits of keeping siblings together is generally well understood.
Earlier this year, Oxford University published a comprehensive report analysing 18 separate research studies on sibling groups in care. The studies, which were carried out in USA (15), Australia (2) and Canada (1), demonstrate the outcome benefits for siblings placed together including greater placement stability and higher likelihood of reunification with birth family.
There are many factors associated with the initial decision to place siblings together or apart, but overall the studies concluded those siblings closer in age, of the same gender, or who come into care at the same time, were more likely to remain together (or be placed with at least one of their siblings).
Although only two of the 18 studies looked at educational outcomes, both reported a positive association when placing siblings together. The Oxford report documented several conclusions and recommendations, including recruiting foster carers with greater housing capacity, recruiting carers with experience looking after multiple children with a range of needs and ensuring foster carers are committed to helping facilitate contact between siblings placed apart.
In September 2014, Action for Children found that one third of the 11,082 children placed in foster care between April 2013 and March 2014 had been separated from their siblings – that is 3,598 children split from their brothers and/or sisters. Furthermore, there were geographical variations with nearly half (45%) of sibling groups separated in the East Midlands.
A poll by the charity found over half of the children who had been split and lived in foster care were upset and angry about it. 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.” (September 2014, Community Care)
The argument that external providers such as Family Care 'may cost more’ is highly debatable, as Local Authorities tend to only consider the foster carer’s allowance within their own provision, excluding staff wages, training costs and other basic overhead expenditures which agencies include within their fee.
However, Sue also warned that spending cuts were affecting the workforce, something Family Care has previously reported on. As it stands, Children’s services face a £2bn funding gap by 2020, highlighting the urgent need for more foster carers to come forward in support of children and young people. Whilst there are several considerations to becoming a foster carer, some of the most common include household dynamics, availability and timing. Many of the applicants we hear from have been considering fostering for some time, and with so many children coming into care or being separated from their siblings, maybe now is the right time for you to get involved? Ask yourself, why couldn’t you foster?
Matt Holmes – Referrals and Recruitment Coordinator at Family Care Group
0800 5 677 677