14 July 2015 | General Interest
There is compelling evidence to show that contact with siblings is the most important stabilising relationship for children living in out-of-home care, yet 35 per cent of Australian children and young people currently in placements do not live with brothers or sisters who are also in care.
These are amongst the findings in a new research report from the CREATE Foundation. The report, Sibling Placement and Contact in Out-of-Home Care, compiles survey and interview responses from 1160 children and young people and 116 case workers, with the report confirming the importance of maintaining sibling relationships to encourage a sense of stability and reduce the potential of traumatic experiences for children and youth in out of home care.
The report also highlights some of the barriers to co-placement, with factors identified as barriers including large sibling groups, different sibling needs, wide age gaps between siblings, type of placement, any pre-existing behaviour problems, and in the case of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, a high degree of separation among siblings who shared only one birth parent.
Interestingly, the report finds no particular cultural protective factors associated with sibling co-placement for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children; however it is clear that co-placement provides stability for all children in out-of-home care, and highlights the vital role of case-managers in influencing sibling contact decision making.
Developed alongside the report is a video, Siblings in Care, which explores the experiences of children and young people affected by separation from their siblings while in placement.
Russell, one participant in the video, hadn’t seen his brother since a placement they shared broke down about six years ago.
“I’d feel relieved if I see [my younger brother] today. Just to look at him, even if it’s for five minutes. Have a quick catch up with him. See how he’s going. Even if it’s just walking past in the street – if I knew what he looked like today. It’d be just good to see him; give him a cuddle; tell him everything’s going to be OK and I’m here if he ever wants to talk.”
Another participant in the video, Mary, explains her reaction to being separated from her sister:
“At the time I was angry. I was really, really angry, because she’s my sister – why would you not tell me where she is? I don’t think they really took into consideration how separating us would actually have an emotional/psychological effect on both us – certainly on me.”
Both report and video highlight the importance children in out-of-home care place on the relationships with their siblings, and provide a sound evidence base to inform future policy directions in out of home care sibling placements across Australia.
For more information visit the CREATE website.