Many of us have childhood memories of special occasions spent with siblings. The team at Foster Portsmouth believes that siblings should be kept together where possible, so they can still have those experiences whilst in foster care. However, we need more foster carers with room in their home and their hearts to make it possible.
A significant number of the vulnerable children that come into the care of Portsmouth City Council are part of a sibling group. Unfortunately, due to the national shortage of foster carers the UK is currently experiencing, it is challenging to find foster carers with the time and a large enough home to take in more than one child.
Foster Portsmouth has pledged to do everything we can to keep sibling groups together. We strive to ensure this is achieved whenever possible and invest in training and procedures to support this aim. The biggest barrier to succeeding is finding foster carers with the space to take a sibling group.
The separation of siblings can cause anxiety and trauma for vulnerable children, and family occasions can be a particularly challenging time for children in foster care. We need more loving foster families this coming year to help us ensure siblings can stay together.
It is well documented that siblings benefit profoundly from remaining together in a single foster family. Coming into care is unsettling, but being separated from siblings could also result in them feeling lonely or isolated. Apart, they will worry about where their brothers or sisters are and their wellbeing, and this will prevent them from settling and thriving themselves.
The Fostering Network, the UK’s leading fostering charity, states: “With 80% of the population having siblings, a significant proportion of children and young people who are fostered belong to sibling groups, in which staying together represents their real sense of security and home.”
“Sibling relationships are often the most enduring relationships we have. [These] will often outlive friendships, partnerships, marriages and even the relationship with parents. For children in care, it is essential for both fostering services and foster carers to pro-actively continue and nurture these relationships.”
Many siblings are close, they share childhood experiences and they may have learnt to rely on each other if they’ve experienced abuse, trauma or neglect. Keeping them together ensures that they have a sense of continuity and emotional support. With siblings by their side, children often find a new foster home less daunting and settle more quickly.
Foster carers Glen, an IT Manager with NHS, and Ruth, a full-time foster carer, have been fostering for 19 years and have raised their own two children alongside fostering. Glen and Ruth (both 52) currently have two brothers aged 11 and 13 with them on a long-term foster arrangement. The boys, who are the couple’s first fostered sibling group, have been with them for two years.
Ruth shared: “You have to have a lot of tenacity and your family need to be on board as it affects them too and it becomes a lifestyle choice.”
Foster carers will need the additional time, patience and energy, as well as the skills to care for a small family of siblings, each with their own individual needs. By its nature, fostering siblings can be twice the work, but equally, it is twice as rewarding.
“It’s the most rewarding care I have ever done,” Ruth continued. “There is the usual conflict between siblings, but that is the only real challenge. Having siblings is hard work, but they are part of the family and very loving children. The best thing is seeing them blossom.”
As a small local authority we’re aim to ensure that even if it becomes necessary for siblings to be fostered in two homes, they are within easy distance to visit and to maintain their relationship. Our foster carers are given advice and training to support family time with a child’s birth family and siblings.
Glen and Ruth have also fostered children seeking refuge, offered emergency care, and provided respite care over the past two decades, although they have tended to specialise in fostering teenagers. Ruth revealed: “I just always wanted to be able to make a difference.”
As well as caring for our vulnerable children, Glen and Ruth have also completed the Great South Run on behalf of Foster Portsmouth since they transferred to help the council raise awareness of the need for additional foster carers, including for sibling groups.
“I took up running when I first had children as a way of keeping fit, it being cheap to access and the most time flexible activity you can do when you look after children,” Ruth shared.
“It’s also good to have a challenge to aim for. It’s part of our lifestyle and allows us to take a break from foster care and keep fit. We also want to inspire our children into a healthier lifestyle.”
Ruth confirms: “We like diversity amongst our carers. All you need is a spare bedroom and a passion to help local children. You don’t directly have to live in Portsmouth either. We live on the Isle of Wight and there is quite a community of us fostering for Portsmouth City Council.”
Fostering brothers and sisters together, like parenting any sibling group, can be challenging, but our excellent, local training will prepare you for this and you’ll receive 24/7 support from our specialist social workers and expert fostering team. You’ll also benefit from our mentoring scheme and our pioneering Mockingbird Programme, and receive competitive fees and allowances for each child you care for.
Ruth confirmed: “I love the network of professionals and other carers I work alongside. The foster carers are such amazing people and so supportive of each other. Some will be lifelong friends.”
Our application process usually takes up to six months. If you enquired today, this time next year you could be fostering siblings and helping to improve their futures.
Join our dedicated team around the child – or children – and we’ll ensure you receive the support, knowledge, skills and experience you need to change their lives, and yours, before next Christmas and beyond.
We welcome all enquiries about fostering. This could be:
- Short-term foster placements for children
- Long-term foster placements for a child or siblings, until they’re ready to live independently or be reunited with family
- Support for unaccompanied minors
- Fostering children with a disability
- Supported Lodgings to develop their independent living skills
- Parent and baby placements
- Respite care
When asked what she would say to anyone considering applying to become a foster carer, Ruth said: “Just do it! The reward of changing someone’s life for the better is immeasurable.”
If you can help us at Foster Portsmouth, then this time next year you could be helping siblings in need. So, let’s work together to keep them together.
To enquire about providing a home for siblings or any other form of fostering, or to arrange a 1:1 with one of our experienced team or existing foster carers, please fill in our contact form below, call 023 9283 4071 or email firstname.lastname@example.org