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Abbes's Story: Fostering Siblings

Abbe Web

With an estimated shortage of 7,200 foster carers in the UK, it can be more and more difficult to ensure siblings are kept together. Here foster carer Abbe describes her experience of becoming permanently matched to siblings Katie and Jarad, who first came to her 4 years ago, aged 8 and 10.

Abbe is an all-encompassing character, with the most infectious joyous laugh imaginable. She is also a very engaging and eloquent speaker. The result? A long interview!

Luckily, you can skip through relevant titles/sections in our menu - or enjoy reading the informative and entertaining piece in full, covering the fostering process and her own experience of fostering siblings.


The names of the children have been changed to protect their identity.


Fostering stories


  • Foster Carer
  • Young person
  • Siblings
  • Long-term fostering

Date published

20 March 2024

Have you been fostering with Blue Sky for very long?

We started the foster care process 11 years ago, and became foster carers 10 years ago, though we’ve only been with Blue Sky for 2 years.

We followed our Supervising Social Worker to Blue Sky. We worked together for seven years, and when she switched agency to Blue Sky we went with her. Our SSW Sam is very supportive, and we also have a really good support network. It’s been very calm with Blue Sky. It’s been really good.

Tell me about the young people in your care.

We're permanently matched with our kids, as a Mainstream Placement. My two children came to me in September 2020, and when we changed agencies, they came with us. It will be four years together at the end of this year.

Katie turned 14 last week, and Jarad turned 12 in October – he’s aged 12 going on 98 in truth! And Katie is 14 going on aged 7! Hahahah! They're very different.

How did you first come into fostering?

I’ve wanted to be a foster carer since I was nine years old. When I was nine, we changed classes, and the teachers sat me beside a little girl called Wendy. Wendy used to be bullied: she was always dirty; her clothes were always torn. She struggled with absolutely everything. I've always been very forthright and straightforward, even as a child, which is perhaps why my teachers sat me next to her. I didn't want to sit with Wendy, but even so, I didn’t let anybody pick on her. One day she simply disappeared from school. She didn't turn up for about two or three days. And when she came back, her surname had changed. Her hair was clean, her clothes were clean. They were all sewn up and her words to me were, ‘I've got a new Mummy’. So, she'd gone into foster care. And I can remember thinking even as a little girl, ‘Oh what a lovely thing someone's done. I think I would like to do that one day.

Her hair was clean, her clothes were clean. Her words to me were, ‘I've got a new Mummy’.

We looked into becoming foster carers when my son was seven, but the agency we contacted were so slow at moving our application forward, that life moved on and changed for us. But then 12 years ago when my son was 20, he got his first big job and was ready to move out of the family home. That’s when we started the fostering process again, and this time we went through the whole process, starting as respite carers.

How was the start of your fostering experience?

We did nine months of respite when we started. Then we took on a little boy, aged seven, who needed a great deal of help. He came to us as a solo placement, but because he was doing so well, we were encouraged to have another child live with him. Well, we took him on holiday and things broke down. I think we knew deep down we wouldn't be able to offer him a home permanently. We decided to try for another child to join the family dynamic. But it made it harder for the little boy to stay with us. Things escalated and we parted company. It was very difficult. But scenarios like this can be common in fostering. You just have to hope that you helped to make a positive difference with all that you put in.

I think we knew deep down we wouldn't be able to offer him a home permanently. You just have to hope that you helped to make a positive difference with all that you put in.

The other little boy who joined us couldn't cope with the lockdown and started to have real issues as he began to identify with us more and more, rather than his own family. For him, it felt like losing them. That connection with his family was extremely important for him. So, he put up a wall. We needed to accept that we weren’t the right place for him, and he too went into a different household.

Did you then intend to foster siblings?

When you start, you have a plan in mind about what you're going to do, and my husband and I then felt we had something to offer for teenagers. But in the meantime, we were receiving referrals. Different children can be suggested as a good match for your household, and it doesn't matter what their age is.

We had had a few of months where we didn't have any children to stay. We had deliberately chosen to have a break because our last parting had been quite traumatic with the two boys, but we had finally started to accept referrals again.

As soon as I read Katie and Jarad’s referral I just connected to it, to them. My husband came home from work and I said to him ‘This is them!’. My husband said, ‘I don’t understand,’ and I said, ‘No, neither do I, but this is our children.’

It was the fastest process we've ever been through. I got in contact with our Social Worker and we were told within two days that their Social Worker had said yes, we were right for them.

Did they have any other brothers and sisters?

Yes - there are seven siblings in Katie and Jarad’s family in total, and of those, six are in foster care; the youngest is being cared for by her dad. In some cases, a foster care agency will work to place all the siblings together, but in other cases, it works better for the siblings to live apart. Katie and Jarad continue to live together in the same household, as do their elder brother and sister, but all the other siblings stay individually with their foster families, where they can receive full care. All of the siblings meet up together twice a month: once a month with their mum, and then once a month when we all go out for dinner with the other foster carers. And that seems to work for them.

All of the siblings meet up together twice a month: once a month with their mum, and then once a month when we all go out for dinner with the other foster carers.

What happened after the Social Worker approved for Katie and Jarad to stay with you?

They came to us about a week later. Having their mum come was a way of keeping her connected to where the children would be. What I wasn’t expecting was that 3 of their other siblings came too! They were waiting in the car, but of course, I invited them in as well. It was quite the experience, having 5 children, their mum, and their Social Worker all inside my fairly small home!

We all sat down, and mum said to Katie, ‘So what do you think? Will you be all right here?’ She said yes. And then she said the same to Jarad, and he responded much quicker. He said, ‘Yes, yes, definitely’. But then he seemed to realise his response could have been hurtful and he said, ‘But what about you mummy? Will you be ok?’ And there was a pause, but she said, ‘Yes, if you’re ok, then I’ll be ok.’

And do they still see their parents?

Yes, they see their mum once a month for an hour and a half, and at their request, they see their Dad once every two months. But I call my kids, my kids. Although I share them with Mum of course. One of the things I have found to be key is to build a successful relationship with the parents as quickly as you can.

You need to respect the parents in whatever situation they may have ended up in. As the kids are with you, you do your best for the kids. And for me, part of that is having a good relationship with the parents as well. Ultimately, I work for the children and so does everybody else.

How were your first days with the siblings?

I felt so anxious over the coming days. I worried I wouldn’t know what to do. I’d never had siblings before or looked after a little girl – only boys. I lost a lot of weight in the next week, just from the nerves! The children had arrived with only the clothes on their backs and that was it. I spoke to their school and asked for a week in which we could buy uniform and we could spend some time getting to know the children before they started school. And that is what we did. We went for walks, out for food, to the beach. Having our dog helped. They loved our dog straight away.

How was it having siblings rather than just one child come to stay?

Jarad was eight when he came to us and Katie was ten, but it felt like Jarad was the elder brother. He was very, very protective of his sister. That first night they were obviously terrified. I sat with Jarad and tried to calm him to sleep. I believe that wherever you are in any given moment in time is exactly where you're meant to be. And as I told this to Jarad, all he kept saying was, ‘You need to tell Katie, this will help Katie.’ So I left him as he settled and went to sleep, and then tried to calm Katie to sleep. I can still see her looking at me wide-eyed! But she settled eventually.

They both needed a lot of nurturing, but I had it to give. It built emotional bridges for us all. It was a very, very different experience to looking after a single child. 

They both needed a lot of nurturing, but I had it to give. It built emotional bridges for us all.

I think it helped them, having each other for support. For some siblings who have been living in a traumatic situation, it can be better for them not be continue living together - and this can be even if there is only two of them. In some circumstances, even though they are siblings, it's not always a healthy relationship. But in our experience, when siblings are placed together and it's properly done, they are a support system for each other. And it’s just better for everyone.

I don't interfere in their relationship because it’s their business. Their relationship is their relationship: you can guide them, you can monitor them, you can be there to cuddle, you can be there for the rights and wrongs. But it’s best to stay out of little squabbles. Because that's how they work out who they are with each other; that's how they build their relationship. But of course, we're always there for them. When Katie and Jarad move on with their lives - and hopefully that's not going to be for a very, very long time - we would happily foster siblings again. There are more dynamics involved, but for us, it just it works.

And how is it now?

Within two weeks we knew that we wanted them to stay forever. They were with us on a section 20 at the time, so they did not have a full care order in place. That was in September 2020 and a full carer order was put in place in December 2020. We'd already decided we wanted to be matched permanently with them within those three months.

It was a bit of a process because there was quite a few changes to Social Workers for them. But we finally got permanence with them in July 2022 and they were given a certificate. I didn't realize just how much it would mean to them in truth. I honestly thought that it was just a bit of red tape.

But for the children to have that, it meant a huge amount. Katie sat and read all the words, and Katie is one of those that it takes a lot to really interest her. But it meant a lot to her. It meant a lot to Jarad as well.

Within two weeks we knew that we wanted them to stay forever.

What is it like being a foster carer?

It’s very important to be open-minded. There are so many different types of family dynamics and personalities in the world. And just as every child is different, so are foster carers. So, it’s not just the children: there are individuals’ different personalities, lives and traumas that also feed into a fostering mix. There is never just one type of fostering family. But I think the most important thing is to be open-minded if you can, and if you can remember – and I find it’s the hardest thing to remember – that it’s not about you.

There is never just one type of fostering family.

For instance, when the kids are playing up, it’s not about me - something else is going on. It's hard not to take things personally when kids are shouting at you. But it's not personal. None of it is personal. Every single bit is about them. And if you do your best for them, your life is better. I can even look at it selfishly – when I do my best for the children, then I'm going to be happy. Because they’re going to be happier and better people and everything that goes along with it. If you do your best for the children then everything else will fall into place. But do as much as you can, don’t hand over your life to them.

Another learning point for me is that you should go to therapy for the child. Yes, the child may need therapy. But making sure that you deal with any prejudices and nuances within yourself allows you to take a more therapeutic approach. For me, that's what therapeutic parenting is: you give the child therapy throughout their entire life, helping them attach, regulate, and become.

Do you feel you could be a foster carer?

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