‘Finding Homes for Hampshire Children’, the Adoption and Fostering service run by Hampshire County Council, is always looking for more carers and adopters in Hampshire, particularly those who can accommodate a sibling group.
Foster carers Phil and Gez have cared for several sibling pairs since their own children left home. They have seen a number of positive benefits to keeping siblings together.
“They already know someone when they arrive, which helps them settle that little bit faster - doing simple day to day things like getting dressed and playing together.
“The youngest of our current sibling group has a severe speech delay. When they arrived, his older brother was almost acting as an interpreter. He seemed to understand everything his brother was saying.”
Foster carer Mandi has two children of her own, and has fostered sibling groups alongside them. Speaking about a brother and sister she is currently caring for, Mandi says: “The relationship between the two of them has improved now that one does not feel responsible for parenting their younger sibling. They are now able to have a ‘normal’ sibling relationship.”
Foster carers Claire and Clive have fostered many sibling groups since their own children left home for university. One pair of siblings they have cared for has now developed such a good long-term relationship with the family that they will be staying until they are adults, and are in a position to live independently.
“The children are so happy, experiencing their adventures together. Christmas is so exciting for them - even now they still put a carrot, milk and a biscuit out for Santa. They are so close and supportive of each other. It is an absolute pleasure to be part of their journey.”
Space, availability of bedrooms, and the impact on a carer’s own children are important factors in the careful matching of groups of foster children to the right homes.
Claire says: “The plan to foster siblings was discussed at great length with our own two children, as it could have been a massive intrusion.
“I know they now all feel integrated as part of one family. The other day, my daughter said when she gets married she would like the girls to be her bridesmaids. That is what you call a wonderful bond.”
It is also worth considering the amount of time and patience that is required to help two or more children rebuild their lives after being placed in care.
Claire has some practical advice for prospective carers of siblings: “Ask all the questions you feel you need to before embarking on this. Have a good support network in place, and get involved in the local fostering support groups as it’s great to have a network of friends who are foster parents all supporting each other. Trying respite care first (where you take children for a short time, to give their longer-term carers a break) is a good idea.”
Claire says: “This is a massive commitment, but it is a wonderful thing to do. I have had no regrets and would definitely foster another sibling group.”
Phil and Gez say: “It is reassuring to see the love and bond between siblings who are in care and the way they can stick together through very hard times.
“One particular happy time we recall was when we took one pair on their first ever holiday, to the Isle of Wight. They had never had a holiday together before and they really enjoyed it. It gave them some really good quality time together and helped them to bond even more as brother and sister.”
Any adult who has a spare room, and child care experience (either with their own children or other people’s), can apply to become a foster carer. The main requirements are time and patience. For more information, visit Hampshire County Council's Fostering website or call 0300 555 1384.
Some names have been changed. The pictures accompanying this article are not the families described.