Nearly half of foster children separated from siblings

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A charity has revealed almost half of children being placed into foster care in West Sussex last financial year were separated from their brothers and sisters.

A Freedom of Information request by the charity Action for Children showed 42 per cent of siblings placed by West Sussex County Council had to be split up.

Between April 2013 and March 2014 the council placed 40 sibling groups into foster care, which equates to 93 children. Of those, 17 sibling groups (39 children) were split up.

Nationally, a third of siblings (3,582 children) are separated.

Splitting siblings can ignite feelings of loss and abandonment which can affect emotional and mental health. They increase the risk of unstable foster placements and poor performance at school, as well as further problems in adulthood, such as difficulty finding a job, drug and alcohol addiction, homelessness or criminal activity.

In a poll Action for Children asked children who have been split up from their siblings and live in foster care about how the separation made them feel; more than half say it makes them feel upset and angry. Yet we know a third of adults in the UK are willing to foster children, with 89 per cent prepared to provide foster care to siblings.

Sir Tony Hawkhead, chief executive of Action for Children, said: “For many children, being taken into care can be a confusing and upsetting time; add the distress of being split up from your brother or sister into the mix and the impact will last a lifetime.

“Nobody wants to separate brothers and sisters, but there simply aren’t enough foster carers who can look after for siblings. By arming ourselves with a pool of dedicated people who can provide a loving and caring home to groups of children we will avoid breaking more young hearts in the future.

“We know that in some cases children can be so badly hurt by what has happened to them before going into care, including severe neglect and abuse, that they need one–to-one support. In the vast majority of cases, however, siblings benefit hugely by staying together and that’s why we need more foster carers to help them.”

Action for Children is looking for people with a spare room who can provide a secure and loving home to all children who have had traumatic experiences. Lots of people can foster, it doesn’t matter if you’re older, own or rent your home, whether you’re single, co-habiting or married, male or female or in a heterosexual or same sex relationship. If you would like to find out more about being a foster carer click here or call 0845 200 5162.

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West Sussex County Council has been approached for comment.