There was a recent BBC documentary, that showed a reporter being open about his childhood in foster care and that he was never made aware he had siblings until he was much older. I thought it important to talk about contact with siblings. I know this has sparked many conversations on various adoption groups and I thought it would be good to have an open discussion about this more widely.
There doesn't appear to be any clear data around this, but in the March 2020 government debate it was highlighted that 70% of siblings were separated. There are many sibling groups that are removed from their birth families by social services. Of course there are factors surrounding this and each individual case is different. Some are significantly large numbers and sadly there are many occasions were it is just not practically possible for them to remain together. It is a unfortunate state of reality, but ultimately social services have the role to try and offer the children the best chance of finding a new family. They have to make difficult decisions to split up siblings; potentially one may have more complex needs or it is just not possible to find a home for a large family group. It is also estimated that 28% of potential adopters are looking for single children and this will also have a bearing to whether children are placed together. I think the documentary did highlight a valid point - that every effort should be made for siblings to make contact or as a minimum to have an awareness of each other.
I don't have siblings myself, but I can imagine how it must feel to not grow up with your brother or sister. Interestingly, we had this conversation with our social worker recently as we were talking about our son's needs and was asking for some guidance. We actually felt it was a much trickier conversation to have with him than talking about his birth parents. I think in a way knowing you have birth parents is something you understand from an early age, but when you bring in the concept of other little people that look like you, that is a whole different scenario.
Our son knows he has siblings and we have been very open about talking to him about them from an early age. It is important he has no surprises and can ask questions when he is ready. It is a difficult concept for anyone to understand, so we try to imagine what it feels like to be young and confused as to why they don't live together, when he sees friends who have their brothers and sisters at home.
He met them when he was one years old and although we wanted to remain in contact this did not evolve. They are mentioned in his life story book, but interestingly he would always gravitate to the photos of people he recognised and would generally skim past the bit in the middle that may be more difficult to understand. As he has grown older and now attends school he asks many more questions about his background, his identity and how families are made up.
We managed to make contact with his siblings again in 2021 and he was excited to receive a Mickey Mouse from them over Christmas. I think it is so important we work hard to keep this connection active. Our son is excited to know more about them and we hope to meet later this year.
This is a hugely sensitive topic and I appreciate that all cases are different and should be managed individually. It is paramount that the children's best interests are at the forefront of any contact.