CREATE’s latest research shows that many children and young people do not live with all of their siblings in out-of-home care, and contact with the siblings who are not placed with them is not always regular or easily accessed. CREATE spoke to Young Consultant Sharney from Victoria about her experiences with sibling contact while she was in care.
Why do you think contact with siblings in care is important?
Sibling contact in care is important because you’ve already be taken away from your family, having your siblings with you or being able to see them helps you stay sane. For many people their siblings are their best friends, the people they turn to when they feel like they can’t talk to anyone else. Especially when you don’t get to see your family even just talking to your siblings can make you feel that little bit more secure and safe when you feel like everyone else has left or aren’t around. Just having that contact with them makes it feel like you’re loved and wanted.
What were your experiences with sibling contact in care?
My sibling contact while I was in care was a lot different to other young people I know who have been in care or are still in care, my sisters and I went into care at the same time. My sisters were taken away and the next day I made the choice to go and be with my sisters. We had the same placement for my whole care experience, having my sisters with me made it so much easier for me while being away from our family and I know it helped my sisters a lot too.
My sisters were and still are my biggest support, if it wasn’t for them or the support of our foster family I would have never made it through school. I wanted to be the best role model that I could for them and show them that school is important and that no matter what goes on in life you can get through school and get an education. If it wasn’t for them I would have gone off the rails and would have never have achieved what I have, like getting through school and getting a job. I would have been just another ‘drop out’.
What were the challenges?
My biggest challenge was definitely losing our Nan. Our Nan had looked after my cousins and me since we were babies and when the girls were babies Nan took them on too. The grieving was hard because I wanted to be strong for them. One of the other challenges would have been contact with mum and trying to explain to my sisters why mum did not come to access and seeing my sisters upset when we didn’t get to see mum. I was used to it but all they wanted on those days was too see her especially when they thought we were going to see her and her not being there. Another challenge was contact with other family members because we were always a close family and being in care having our own stuff going on a lot of the time made it difficult to see them.
Any advice you have for someone who is disconnected from their siblings and finding it hard?
Be persistent and make your workers and carers aware that you do want to see your siblings and tell them how it is affecting you. Even talk to your carers or other family you have contact with and make it known that you do need your sibling/s in your life. If you’re old enough, find any way that you can to contact them whether that be through Facebook or other ways. I know it can be hard not seeing your siblings because after leaving care I haven’t seen my siblings as much as I would like to, but as long as you let the people around you know there will be someone out there who will be able to help you to get in contact with them.
For more information and resources about sibling contact in care, including our sibling placement and contact in out-of-home care video, our Sibling Placement and Contact in Out-of-Home Care Report and other useful resources please click on the link below.