Woman's Hour this week had a discussion about fostering and the splitting up of sibling groups. Action for Children a charity that has being running for 145 years, supporting vulnerable and neglected children and young people in the UK had been invited in to discuss the findings from some research they collated in August 2014.
Taken from a Freedom of Information request by Action for Children to all local authorities in the UK between April 2013 and March 2014. The request, completed on Friday 15 August 2014, discovered that 11082 children from sibling groups were placed in local authority foster care and 3598 children had been separated from their siblings. (That's 36%) The response rate was 89%.
We first came across Action for children at one of our first adoption training sessions when a lovely lady who worked for them came in to discuss the importance of keeping up some form of contact with birth parents, the second time was when we met child 4's birth parents, the same lady joined them to support them through the meeting, helping them to ask and answer questions we had and to encourage them to accept that we were going to be child 4's parents.
Whilst I listened to the discussion, I was surprised, yet not, that so many children were split from their siblings, after all it is so very hard to find foster carers that can take on more than one child. It seems that children whom are removed by social services are expected to "just get on with it" yes there is counselling available via CAMHS, child and adolescent mental health services, within adoption there is the post adoption team and for foster carers there is social services. All of this support though is over stretched, understaffed and financially constantly short of money. Children in foster care aren't in an environment where they are unconditionally loved as they would be by a loving family. They have their needs taken care of and they are no doubt loved, but I suspect that as a foster carer you have to hold back the emotional ties because the children you take care of are returned or moved on and to truly fall in love with your charge would lead to devastation when they left. Sometimes I think that we forget the grief those children must feel and that grief surely must be similar to that of children who lose a parent in an accident or through disease.
Not only do we remove children from their parents because they are not being cared for but then we split them up from their siblings, those children grieve for the loss of their parents and the loss of their brothers and sisters. They don't understand that it's for their own good or that they cannot be found a home with their brothers and sister because those homes just don't exist.
The system as it is seems to let down the children it is trying to save, but I don't have an alternative idea do you?