No matter each organisation’s role and function, Scotland’s corporate parents share the same goals – to uphold the rights and safeguard the wellbeing of care experienced children and young people. Achieving these goals requires a whole range of activities, and with competing priorities, it is not always easy to know where to begin.
In this blog Lizzie Morton of CELCIS and David Faith, formerly of Who Cares? Scotland explore what corporate parents can do to improve siblings’ experiences of care as part of their statutory duties.
Are we treating sibling relationships as a priority?
- When children and young people become looked after away from their birth parents, evidence tells us the majority experience separation from some or all of their siblings. This can be for a range of reasons, including concerns around safety, and sometimes because children themselves may prefer not to see their sibling at certain points in their childhood. But often, estrangement is due to a lack of resources and the limited availability of carers who can accommodate sibling groups.
- Concerningly, children’s views in relation to contact with their siblings is poorly documented in case files, and evidence shows that (where recorded) sibling contact appears to diminish over time.
- In many cases, limited practical steps are taken to maintain, support and develop the relationships between siblings who live apart. This can be for a range of reasons, including resource constraints.
- Where arrangements are in place for brothers and sisters to spend time together, often these are not conducive to having quality time together, or nurturing siblings’ relationships in their own right.
Much can be done to improve the current situation. Together, we can support brothers and sisters to spend quality time together, both face to face, and in other ways by maximising safe opportunities provided by technology and social media.
What can I do as a corporate parent?
As corporate parents, there is a duty under the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 to be alert to matters which adversely affect the wellbeing of care experienced children and young people, so an awareness of the issues of sibling separation is necessary. But awareness alone is not enough; corporate parents also have statutory duties to promote the interests of care experienced children and young people, and to provide accessible opportunities to participate in activities designed to promote wellbeing. Corporate parents must take meaningful actions to meet these duties, and supporting sibling relationships for children and young people with care experience is a key step in doing so.
In spite of their varied, differing roles, all corporate parents have an important part to play. Corporate parents will wish to consider:
- Including actions to support sibling relationships in your corporate parenting plan.
- Staying informed about the issues of sibling separation, and keeping up to date with the latest news on the Stand up For Siblings website.
- Making a pledge to show your support for Stand Up For Siblings.
- Using your voice and position to highlight the issue of sibling separation and contact whenever the opportunity arises.
- Making commitments and taking actions to ensure brothers and sisters stay together (if this is within your remit as a corporate parent).
- Considering how you can provide opportunities for brothers and sisters to spend quality time together (or how you can collaborate with other corporate parents to do this).
- Ensuring children’s views about their sibling relationships and contact are listened to, and that they form part of the Child’s Plan.
However you decide to meet your duties and responsibilities as a corporate parent in relation to supporting siblings, please let us know what you’re doing so we can share good practice, and please get in touch for advice and support!
 Jones, C. & Henderson, G. (2017) Supporting Sibling Relationships of Children in Permanent Fostering and Adoptive Families, Glasgow: University of Strathclyde