Meet the amazing foster carers helping siblings stay together
Two families in Gloucestershire are opening up about something they all have in common and feel passionately about. They are foster carers who provide a loving, stable home to siblings, helping them to stay together.
During lockdown, demand for foster placements for siblings has increased by more than ten per cent and is expected to rise further. As a result, the county council needs many more new foster carers with the space and energy to keep brothers and sisters together when they come into care.
Elaine and Keith Perry from Newent are caring long term for two brothers. When they arrived in 2014 aged five and eight they’d never had a birthday party, or a holiday and arrived in the same clothes they’d been wearing when they came into care.
Over the last six years Elaine says there have been ups and downs but it is the most rewarding thing she has ever done: “I wouldn’t change anything. Not the experiences, not the learning, not the boys. I love them both as if they were my own.
“My birth daughter has flourished being in a larger family unit. She is kind and caring and better for being a sibling.”
Nikki and Gary Stephens from Gloucester are also passionate about making room in their home to keep siblings together and feel it would be tragic for them to miss all the memories that are a given for most children.
“The joy of seeing the children thrive and the opportunity for them to grow up together and share the most important memories, far outweighs any of the difficulties. Birthdays, Christmas, sports events, school, the everyday humour that exists between them – they should never be denied sharing these things.”
If ever they do have just one sibling from a group, the couple make an extra effort to make sure they keep in touch through visits, photos, letters and phone calls. This is something which is recognised and appreciated by the children they have cared for, even many years later. As Nikki says, “We know because they come back and tell us, that they really value how much effort we made to keep them in touch with each other.”
Cllr Richard Boyles, cabinet member for children’s safeguarding and early years at Gloucestershire County Council, said: “We always try to keep siblings together wherever possible. They can provide comfort and reassurance for each other at a time when everything else familiar has been lost.
“Growing up together helps maintain strong bonds and create happy memories they can share, providing them with a family support network which is essential in later years when they leave care.”
Could you make it possible for siblings to stay together?
Gloucestershire County Council needs foster carers who have the space and energy to give a home to siblings when they come into care. Get in touch on 01242 532654 or visit www.gloucestershire.gov.uk/fostering to enquire about fostering with us.
Read more about Nikki and Gary’s experience here