‘Siblings are forever’

More than a third of children and young people in Australia’s out-of-home care system are separated from their siblings.

Those are the statistics of the Create Foundation, Australia’s peak consumer body representing children and young people in out-of-home care.

Berry Street Gippsland director Trish McCluskey is calling for change.

“Lots of children who come from families where there has been abuse or neglect and what have you, their attachment relationship is often with their siblings,” Ms McCluskey said.

“They’ll come into care and because it is so hard to get any carers these days, we often separate siblings.

“There is not adequate legislation to ensure siblings are kept together.”

National Child Protection Week began yesterday, raising awareness of the importance of sibling contact.

Ms McCluskey said her 20 years of research and working with young children in the out-of-home care system had shown her sibling separation caused “profound grief”.

State Families and Children Minister Jenny Mikakos this year launched Berry Street’s ‘Siblings Are Forever’ poster, but Ms McCluskey said this gesture did not go far enough.

She pointed to amendments to Victoria’s Children, Youth and Families Act 2005, due to come into effect in March next year.

“I think the new legislation does not reflect the needs of siblings enough in out-of-home care,” she said.

“We must be really careful we do not repeat the mistakes of the past, where we remove children from the most important people of their lives.”

Ms Mikakos said she would review the 2014 Amendment Act six months after its implementation, including the concerns of stakeholders.

“Where possible, siblings are placed together in out-of-home care and where this is not possible, contact between siblings is promoted and supported through regular get-togethers,” Ms Mikakos said.

RELATED COVERAGE: Hope at the end of the tunnel

Youth for Change: creating a better future

Second international conference – a platform for young people with a care experience

2-4 October

Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre

To register your attendance or view the program visit www.youthforchange.create.org.au

To understand the needs of children and young people in care, watch CREATE’s Siblings Are Forever video, detailing the experiences of several brothers and sisters.