Louise Hughes is one of our Story of Care Ambassadors. This is the first of a series of blogs exploring her experience of care. 

My younger siblings are the most important people in the world to me. Without them, I wouldn’t still be here as I would have given up a long time ago. We all grew up in foster care. And we were lucky. For the first seven and a half years, we were placed in the same foster home. Until we got split up. Unfortunately, being placed together isn’t the norm.

Research suggests that 80% of children in care have at least one sibling they don’t live with. Research also suggests that siblings who are separated don’t always have contact and for some – there’s no contact at all. The law, however, says that siblings put into care should be placed together (where possible) as it’s in their best interests.

So why is it not happening?

A statement I came across said this:

Sibling relationships help children achieve developmental milestones as well as provide emotional support, companionship, and comfort in times of change.

Now, I know it’s not straightforward. I know there are a lot of factors to consider when placing a child/ren with foster families but research suggests that children placed apart from their siblings are less likely to have stable placements.

They can be comforters, caretakers, role models, spurs to achievement, faithful allies, and best friends.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been the mother figure to my sisters. Even when we were living with our parents. I’ve given numerous hugs, pray for them regularly, big them up when they need it. I give unsolicited advice, FaceTime when they don’t want it and they’re my best friends.

It is suggested that siblings separated from each other in foster care experience anger, trauma and an extreme sense of loss. I know I felt all these things when I was split up from my sisters. Furthermore, it is suggested that when you separate siblings, it can make it difficult for them to make attachments and more. I certainly felt that. My second placement was extremely tough as I wasn’t seeing my siblings 24/7.

Luckily, for a year, we were all at the same school so I could still be the annoying big sister!

Siblings with existing bonds should in principle not be separated by placements in alternate care unless there is a clear risk of abuse or other justification in the best interests of the child. In any case, every effort should be made to enable siblings to maintain contact with each other, unless this is against their wishes and feelings.

– United Nations General Assembly, Resolution: 64/142. Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children, 2010, para 17

I’m going to finish this blog off with a question. If the courts and social services are trying to keep routine and nor disrupt a child’s life – how is separating siblings keeping things normal?