Many of the children who enter the foster care system are sibling groups of more than two. The majority of referrals we receive are to find homes for sibling groups of between two and six children. Unfortunately, brothers and sisters are often forced to live apart, due to a lack of foster carers that can take groups of siblings. This can be devastating for these vulnerable children, who have already experienced family separation.
So, why is it important to keep siblings together, and what is Centacare doing about it?
Why keeping siblings together matters
Being removed from the home you have always known, regardless of the situation, is terrifying. This trauma can be exacerbated for siblings if they are separated from each other and placed into different foster homes.
Siblings from difficult family environments are often allies, and the bond they share is more profound than most of us can imagine. When they are separated, they lose the closest people they had to turn to.
There are many benefits of keeping siblings together
The most significant benefit of keeping siblings together in a foster placement is that it significantly increases their emotional wellbeing. Having an ally with shared experiences to lean on makes the transition into foster care less traumatic. When brothers and sisters stay together, they feel more secure and are happier overall. Then other aspects of life, like attending school and making friends, become so much easier.
Studies have shown that siblings kept together do better at school. This is likely because of the easier adjustment to their foster home. A child struggling to settle in at home is less likely to be able to take on new information, which impacts on learning.
The Village Concept
It is simply not always possible to keep siblings together. Foster Carers only have so much physical room and emotional capacity. To overcome this, Centacare has introduced the Village Concept.
Many of us are familiar with the concept that ‘it takes a village to raise a child,’ and foster children are no different. Under our Village concept, we use networks of Foster Carers to keep siblings close together. The program aims to match carers who are related, are close friends or who live nearby who can maintain regular sibling contact and connection.
Terese and Carmen are two sisters who have created a foster family village for four brothers. Carmen cares for the youngest brother and, just a few streets away, Terese cares for the three older brothers. As a result, the brothers can spend time with each other regularly and frequently in an organic way.
The Centacare Approach
At Centacare, we know family is important, and we always try to place brothers and sisters in the same home or in an environment where they can maintain their close bonds. However, modern lifestyles sometimes make this difficult. We believe it is our responsibility to find ways to adapt and overcome these challenges for the wellbeing and happiness of the children in our care. If you know someone that you can create a foster family village with, we’d love to talk to you.