A PLEA has gone out for more people in Bucks to come forward to become foster carers to stop brothers and sisters from being split up.

The call for action comes following figures released this month by Action for Children which revealed that a fifth of siblings taken into care in the south east of England are separated.

Buckinghamshire County Council says that out of the 23 siblings currently in its care, nine are split from at least one of their brothers or sisters. The call for new carers in Bucks is being focused on people who can care for siblings, children under five, and teenagers.

Childrens' services in Bucks were branded "inadequate" in a damning Ofsted report published last month. While slight concerns were raised about some elements of the county's foster care set up, it was not mentioned in the report's key criticisms. It did, however, say that BCC should ensure sufficient foster care placements are available within Bucks so children did not have to be sent out of county.

Cllr Angela Macpherson, the County Council's Cabinet Member for Children's Services, said: "It is so important that we reach out to prospective carers to find loving family homes for children who, for whatever reason, are unable to live with their birth parents.

"For many children, being taken into care can be a confusing and upsetting time, add the distress of being split up from your brother or sister into the mix and the impact will last a lifetime.

"Nobody wants to separate brothers and sisters which is why by arming ourselves with a pool of dedicated people who can provide a loving and caring home to groups of children, we will avoid breaking more young hearts in the future. Siblings benefit hugely by staying together and that’s why we need more foster carers to help them."

The council, which was recently Action for Children warns that splitting up brothers and sisters can lead to worse feelings of abandonment which may affect children's mental health and wellbeing.

In turn, it adds, this can eventually lead to problems later in life such as drug and alcohol dependency.

Elaine Sturman a foster carer from Aylesbury said: "Fostering was always something I wanted to do. I currently foster siblings - two boys who are now aged 14 and 16 and have been with me long-term for nearly nine years.

"All siblings come from very diverse backgrounds, and I think it's very important to keep brothers and sisters together as it helps them with all sorts of things, especially the trauma of coming into care. At least if they're together they can support each other throughout and makes the experience easier to deal with whereas if they are separated it can make the trauma much much worse."

If you are interested in becoming a foster carer or adoptive parent and would like to find out more visit www.buckscc.gov.uk/fostering or call 0800 160 1900.