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One in three children split up from siblings in foster care

Action for Children calls for more foster carers for siblings

A third of UK children (3,582) have been separated from their brothers and sisters when placed in foster care during the last financial year, Action for Children has found by a Freedom of Information request.

This rose to 45 per cent (257 children) in the East Midlands, during those 12 months.

Splitting siblings, the charity says, 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."

A Freedom of Information request was made 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 11,082 children from sibling groups were placed in local authority foster care and 3,598 children had been separated from their siblings. The response rate was 89 per cent.

Action for Children polled 2,000 children in the UK with One Poll. 16 per cent (324 children) responded saying they currently live with foster carers and two thirds (66 per cent) said they had been separated from their siblings. Children were asked whether being separated from their siblings made them feel upset, angry, lonely, scared or if they don't mind.

For the latest Court of Appeal judgment concerning the care of siblings, see K (Children) [2014] EWCA Civ 1195.

8/9/14