The Association of Children’s Welfare Agencies (ACWA) is using National Families Week to highlight the desperate need in NSW for foster families and potential adoptive parents willing to open their homes to sibling groups.
More than a third of Australian children and young people in out-of-home care are separated from their siblings when they enter the system.
ACWA CEO Andrew McCallum, who is an Ambassador for this week’s National Families Week (May 15-21), says it is critical that siblings who are removed from their parents have the option of staying together in care to avoid serious lifelong emotional consequences of being split up, sometimes for good, from those they are closest to.
“Brothers and sisters who are placed together can help shield each other against the fear and loss of being taken from their family home,” Mr McCallum said.
“They provide mutual support, continuity of identity and the sense of safety and belonging that is so critically important not only in childhood, but over the course of a lifetime.”
“Maintaining close ties with siblings also has an additional benefit for Aboriginal children of helping to keep them connected to culture.”
There is a wide body of research that supports the significant long term benefits of preserving the connections between brothers and sisters while they are in care. An international literature review ‘What is known about the placement and outcomes of sibings in foster care?’, published by Oxford University’s Rees Centre (UK) in February, reveals that siblings who are placed together are more likely to be reunified with their birth families more quickly than those who are in separate placements. They also experience greater stability, improved mental health and more positive educational outcomes.
Sadly, despite the well documented benefits of keeping brothers and sisters in care together, foster care agencies continue to struggle to find foster families with the capacity to take on sibling groups.
A research report released by the CREATE Foundation1 in 2015 revealed more than 35 per cent children and young people in out-of-home care in Australia had been separated from their brothers and sisters who were also in care. Furthermore, in only 29 per cent of care placements did children and young people live with all of their sbiings.
“While there is always going to be a need in our community for foster carers, agencies are particularly in need of those who have the love, skills, space and energy to provide safe, happy homes to groups of brothers and sisters,” Mr McCallum said.
Fostering NSW, a partnership between the NSW Government and non-government out-of-home care agencies and managed by ACWA, is seeking to attract 660 new carers in the coming year to cater for a a range of needs, from emergency, respite and short term carers able to support restoration of children to their birth families, to foster parents wishing to progress to guardianship or open adoption, Aboriginal and multicultural carers.
People interested in finding out more about becoming a foster carer can visit the Fostering NSW website: www.fosteringnsw.com.au or call 1800 236 783.
The Association of Children’s Welfare Agencies is the peak body for out-of-home care agencies in NSW.
Fostering NSW is a partnership between the NSW Government and non-government out-of-home care agencies and is managed by ACWA.
To arrange an interview with ACWA CEO Andrew McCallum please contact:
M: 0418 659 525
To arrange an interview with a foster carer please contact:
P: 0424 901131
1 McDowall, J.J. (2015). Sibling placement and contact in out-of-home care. Sydney: CREATE Foundation