Friday, June 13, 2014


They try to keep siblings together when children come into Care. They, in this case, refers to the local authority, who are the people who make the decision that children should be taken into Care.

One of my fostering friends has had 3 brothers aged 5-10 with her for the last 2 years. 

I say "fostering friends", we met through fostering and nothing bonds like being a fellow foster parent, really nothing comes close.

She has just told me that the youngest has been taken away and put with another foster family. And life is so much better and happier for them all. Her included.

I can see that keeping the children together in fostering is the logical thing to do in theory. Being removed from the family home is pretty traumatic, being taken to the home of complete strangers is pretty traumatic. The thinking goes "Hey if we keep the children together at least they'll have the company of someone they know." Maybe it works well in some cases, it's just that I've never heard of it working well in real life.

Most children who find themselves being taken into Care are being removed from failing families, and part of that failing is lack of love. In its place is often plenty of hostility and conflict. The thing is that siblings don't need any encouragement to be at each others throats. Even the most delightfully happy family, surely, has tales of the children squabbling, fighting even. The way families are set up, with one or two adults and a big age gap between the adults and several kids of different ages and stages of development is bound to cause rivalries, resentments and jealousies between the kids.

Siblings can get into a routine of conflict with each other. Disagreements leading to hostility, even violence, can become the absolute norm. The minute they see each other, or something belonging to each other, they see red.

It was so with my kids, it's actually just plain normal. I remember watching a David Attenborough about a pride of lions. The cubs wanted to play with the dad, and he just lay in the sun while they climbed on him, nipped his tail and scratched his nose. Then he got fed up and roared. The cubs ran away, but not far. They started to squabble and play-fight with each other. The fighting got out of hand, there was screaming and wailing, and the dad had to get up and sort it. Then the cubs were happy again, they'd got dad's attention back.

When siblings come into Care they are deeply entrenched in their sibling rivalry. The dynamic between them is tried and trusted, they are comfortable with it, for all the pain it causes them. The people who aren't comfortable are the foster parents. 

Just because the siblings are able to act out a part of their lives before they came into Care doesn't make it right or useful. Keeping them together can be a green light to them to carry on with bad habits, maybe sink even lower as they take out the anger they feel about being in Care on each other.

We foster carers are well used to getting on with what we're asked to do. Part of the rich reward lies in seeing progress. You have to keep a keen eye open, and listen out for kind words from your social worker, who sees the progress more obviously than yourself because their visits are spaced out.

But it would help a lot if, instead of local authorities assuming it's best for the children to stay together unless there's a compelling argument, they assume it's best for them to go to separate homes unless there's a compelling argument.

1 comment:

  1. We foster 2 half-siblings who have lived with us for over 3 years. When it was decided that they would not be returning to their birth family, the Social Worker carried out a "Sibling Assessment" to decide if it would be beneficial for them to stay together. The children fight all the time like cat and dog! They have no loyalty towards each other and relish any opportunity to "drop the other one in it"! Even though they have flourished in their time with us, we even had to send them to separate schools as the younger one made the other boys life a misery at school. They are extremely jealous of each other and appear to have no attachment to each other at all. Sometimes we think that they may have been happier if they had been split up and been the only child in each family. The Social Worker made the decision "in the best interests of the children". Box ticking and closing the case quickly, more like!!