Published: 28th January 2015
National charity The Family Rights Group (FRG) have completed a recent survey which highlights that 37% of siblings in care live apart from each other and that 49% of groups of siblings in care have been separated.
Established since 1974, The FRG are a charity covering the whole of England and Wales and their aim is to deliver a family-centred approach to supporting local authorities and struggling parents and to ensure that children are raised in the most supportive and encouraging environment within their family and community.
The report, conducted by Cathy Ashley and David Roth of the Family Rights Group, investigated children and their siblings in local authority care. The report highlights the findings from a survey of 152 local authorities in England under the Freedom of Information Act, in which 122 provided responses that made up the results of the survey.
The results found that of all sibling groups placed together, 23% were living in family and friends foster care, which is more than double of all looked after children in kinship foster care placements. Around three quarters of children living in residential homes or with foster carers unrelated to them were separated from their siblings, compared to just 8% of children fostered by carers related to them.
The report concluded with a series of recommendations for local authorities on how to keep siblings together. It highlighted that it is in the best interest of the children to be placed with their siblings unless it is contrary to the welfare needs of the child.
It also states that more should be done to help support and nurture children who are kept apart from their siblings, possibly with the use of services who arrange contact between separated siblings like Siblings Together or the Shaftesbury Young People's Siblings United Project.
The authors of the report also recommended that all local authorities should regularly audit the needs of those in care in their areas and the data on sibling placements should be published to ensure that they make suitable provisions so that the needs of sibling groups are met.
They believe that a legal duty should be placed on local authorities to always explore the possibility of placements within family and friends first, with families having the option to have a family group conference before the child enters the care system, which they feel would 'maximise the prospects of children' and allowing them to be 'raised safely with their siblings within the family network'.
They concluded their recommendations by saying that the Government should adequately fund free specialist advice and information services to family and friends who are considering or have taken on a child to help them navigate the complexities of child welfare law, policies and practices.
A spokesperson for the Local Government Association responded to the report, saying "The latest national figures show that social workers are able to keep siblings together in the vast majority of cases but there are instances when it may be in a child's best interests to be placed separately from their brothers and sisters."
"Finding loving homes for children who need them is an incredibly difficult job, and social workers will consider all possibilities before making a decision on the best placement"
A statement from support group Siblings Together read, "Sibling relationships can provide a thread of continuity and support for looked after young people even when they end up moving frequently. For many looked after children, sibling relationship are in practice their best hope of maintaining long term supportive relationships that will continue through placement changes and after they become adults and leave care."
The full findings of the report can be found here - http://www.frg.org.uk/images/PDFS/siblings-in-care-final-report-january-2015.pdf
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