[holding answer 12 November 2007]: The well-being of looked after children is paramount and legislation focuses on securing this. Section 23(7)(b) of the Children Act 1989 places a duty on local authorities to accommodate a child together with his/her siblings so far as is 'reasonably practical and consistent with his welfare'. The Act also requires local authorities to encourage contact between siblings.
An important factor to be taken into account in placement decisions is the number of children who may be placed in a foster home. Paragraphs 2 and 3 of Schedule 7 to the Act prescribe a ‘usual fostering limit’ of three children. Local authorities may, however, exceed the usual fostering limit if the children concerned are all siblings.
This Government have invested significantly to improve the choice of placements available, so that a higher number of looked after children are now living in foster placements than ever before.
In relation to adoption we have:
issued statutory guidance to adoption agencies emphasising the importance of children being placed in sibling groups where this is in their best interests;
required local authorities to make a range of adoption support services available, including financial support to facilitate siblings being placed together; and
set up an adoption register for England and Wales which enables children and prospective adopters to be matched beyond local areas. It has an important role to play in finding matches for more difficult to place children, such as those in sibling groups.