How foster care separates siblings

More than half of children are split up from their brothers and sisters as demand for carers rises

Fostered children are being separated from their brothers or sisters because of a shortage of suitable homes. In some cases, where their natural parents have died, this means they are taken away from the only family they have left, according to new research by the Fostering Network.

In the past two years, 34 per cent of foster families have looked after children whose brothers and sisters had been placed elsewhere, despite care plans stating they should stay together, the charity says. This equates to 17,000 foster families across Britain, in what is a national problem "affecting thousands of children", according to Robert Tapsfield, chief executive of the Fostering Network. Most fostered children have experienced some form of trauma before coming into care, he said. "Being separated from brothers and sisters just adds to the difficulties they are facing, and makes it harder to settle into their new lives," he added.

Natasha Finlayson, chief executive at the Who Cares? Trust, a charity for children in care, described the figure, from a survey of more than 1,200 foster families, as "really shocking". She warned: "With the number of children in care and not enough places in foster care and children's homes, we are heading for a perfect storm."

Some 73 per cent of fostering services reported last year that it had become harder to keep brothers and sisters together over the past five years. The situation is set to worsen with reforms to the welfare system, as carers with two or more bedrooms for fostered children face losing housing benefit for these "unoccupied" rooms, and will have to apply to a discretionary fund for compensation.

New statistics to be published by the Fostering Network tomorrow are expected to show how shortages of foster carers are resulting in children being repeatedly moved from one place to another. An urgent appeal for Britons to become foster carers will be made tomorrow as part of Foster Care Fortnight.

The Children Act 1989 requires local authorities in England and Wales to place a child with their siblings "if reasonably practicable and consistent with their welfare". Similar legislation exists in Scotland and Northern Ireland. But more than half of children in care are believed to be separated from their siblings, according to campaigners.

Kevin Browne, 26, a charity worker from Paisley, Scotland, grew up without his four brothers and his sister. The family was split up after his mother, a single parent with alcohol problems, could no longer cope. The children were taken into care on Christmas Eve when he was three. Kevin woke up on Christmas Day to find himself in a children's home. By the time he was eight, he had only one brother with him in care. The family was never reunited. "In parts it's horrific; in other parts it's confusing, and with my brothers it's a continual journey to build up a relationship with them," he said. "I feel like a massive bond has been broken."

One foster mother, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: "I look after two children. Their older sister lives somewhere else and they only see each other every couple of months, for half an hour at most. They are becoming like strangers."

In a statement, a Department for Education spokesman said: "The law is clear that siblings should be placed together with foster carers where possible. We are continuing to work with key partners to support local authorities to secure enough foster carers to meet children's needs."

Case study: 'People don't realise how important it is for siblings to be kept together'

Susie Morgan, 53, a foster carer from Leeds (her details have been changed), has seen, at first hand, the trauma of siblings separated...

"Toby, 10, came to me as an emergency placement on a Sunday night when his mother was admitted to hospital. A friend took his half-sister, and his half-brother went to other carers. That was more than seven years ago, and he's still with me.

"As time went by it got less and less likely that a foster family with the space or skills to look after all of them would ever be found. Eventually it was agreed Toby would stay with me permanently, without his siblings.

"He misses them dreadfully. A lot of people don't seem to realise how important it is for siblings to be kept together. Toby has a stable and permanent home here now. But if the local authority could have kept the children together it would have been a much better solution."

To be a foster parent, go to

Suggested Topics
New Articles
tvDownton Abbey Christmas special
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

    £70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

    Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

    £20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

    Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

    £24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

    Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

    Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

    Day In a Page

    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all