FAMILIES across Reading are being called on to foster sibling groups.

National fostering firm Five Rivers Child Care are making a plea this Siblings Day (April 10) as growing numbers of siblings in care are being split up.

Thousands of brothers and sisters in care across the UK are being separated because of a lack of suitable foster carers, according to the organisation.

More foster carers that are willing and able to care for sibling groups are needed across Reading as a result of the rising number of sibling groups entering the care system.

Recent findings show that fifty-one per cent of the children waiting to be placed with foster carers last year were part of a sibling group – an increase from 48% the year before.

In 2017, The Fostering Network surveyed foster carer providers and revealed that 86% of services needed more carers who are open to fostering sibling groups to cater for the growing demand.

Five Rivers Child Care is speaking out on Siblings Day 2019 to raise awareness of the importance of keeping brothers and sisters together to reduce the risk of further emotional trauma to children and young adults entering the care system.

The biggest barrier in keeping sibling groups together in foster care is a lack of space.

Siblings of the same sex may be able to share a bedroom but only as long as it doesn’t jeopardise the individual needs of each child, but research conducted by the Fostering and Education Department at the University of Oxford found that siblings placed together in care experienced greater stability of placements and were more likely to reunite with their birth families.

Martin Leitch, head of fostering operations at Five Rivers Child Care, said: "Fostering a child is a not just a career path, it's a life choice, it's choosing to provide a safe and loving home to someone vulnerable that otherwise might not have a family or home.

"Fostering sibling groups naturally comes with added responsibilities and challenges but similarly it can be infinitely more rewarding.

"By fostering siblings, you can treasure the knowledge that because of you they were able to stay together as a family.

"Because looking after sibling groups can sometimes provide additional challenges, it's vital foster carers have access to the relevant support and training at all times.

"We work very closely with social workers and our foster carers to ensure help is always at hand whenever it's needed.

"At Five Rivers Child Care, we go above and beyond to ensure that where possible, and forgoing extreme circumstances, sibling groups are able to stay together.

"We have some amazing foster carers that look after sibling groups and we only hope more loving families across Reading will be inspired to follow in their footsteps."

People from all walks of life can become foster carers as long as they are over 21, including single people, co-habiting couples, same sex couples and people living in rented accommodation.

The only requirement is a spare room for each foster child – siblings of the same sex may be able to share rooms depending on the individual requirements of each child.

For more information on foster care contact Five Rivers Child Care on 0345 266 0272 or visit www.five-rivers.org.