At Care Visions Fostering Scotland, we look to ensure that we do all we can to make and sustain relationships between siblings. Wherever possible we support brothers and sisters to live together, however, we are aware that there are times where this is not possible and when these situations occur, we must look to do all we can to make sure that we do all we can to maintain the relationships between siblings. One of the first things we seek to do is to play our part in a Together and Apart assessment. This is a tool that the Local Authority take the lead responsibility in pulling together, but we at Care Visions will contribute to this assessment to give our documented view on whether we agree on the siblings being separated in the first place.
In my experience as a local authority social worker, and during my five years with Care Visions, its is crucial that these assessments are done to ensure that separating siblings is absolutely necessary. There can often be differing views from the LA, the agency, the carers. Etc. as to what is the best course of action. The long-term impact of separating siblings is huge and potentially lifelong. Yet despite this, the individual parties involved can still minimise this when giving their view.
If the decision is made to separate siblings, then there are various tasks that each of the parties involved need to take individual responsibility for. At Care Visions Fostering Scotland, we must ensure that our carers have not only had sufficient training and guidance to ensure they understand the importance of helping a child in their care to maintain a relationship with their sibling but that they also accept and understand that this is a constant responsibility that a carer always has to be accountable for.
From my experience, the key for everyone involved is responsibility. We all have a responsibility to do what we can to ensure children maintain a relationship with their siblings. This includes proper and thorough assessments of the children involved so that we all know what is safe and appropriate for their situation. What issues have been and are likely still to be around? How often should they meet up and where? Who needs to supervise this contact? Questions like these all need to be asked and fully addressed. Communication between all parties is also vital so that the progress of this relationship can be clearly assessed and reviewed.
Various resources will be required for this also in the forms of staff, money, premises for the family time to take place in, etc. While all these resources seem obvious, there can often be disagreement between various parties about who takes responsibility for them. Proper and open discussion must take place so that everyone involved, including the children, know all the arrangements for the children meeting up.
These arrangements may change as the plan develops. However, as long as all relevant parties keep in mind the responsibilities they each have to ensure the relationship between the siblings is maintained and as long as there is regular communication and review of the plan, what can occur is that siblings who may not have the opportunity to live together can now still have their sibling bond maintained. That is something very special and definitely something worth fighting for.