Foster mum who founded a charity to help siblings separated by the care system to be reunited and create new, happy memories together.
As a foster carer, Karen Morrison saw first-hand that the care system had a problem. Brothers and sisters were often being split up, going long periods without contact, because of a lack of placements where they could stay together.
An estimated seven in ten children in care are living apart from at least one sibling – possibly the only family they have. Determined to ensure siblings don’t become strangers, Karen founded the charity Siblings Reunited (STAR) in 2013.
It was the first charity of its kind in Scotland and since launching Karen and her many highly experienced volunteers have reunited 500 estranged siblings. Some have gone without contact for six months while others have never met.
Karen, 47, explains: “The charity came about after I had a lightbulb moment one day. I knew I had to do something as it was heartbreaking that siblings were not able to see each other and their relationships were not made a priority.
“Siblings Reunited developed from my personal belief that children separated from their brothers and sisters in care could benefit hugely if they had a place to meet that they could call their own special place.”
Karen hosts the children on her farm in Fife for an average of two hours a month, offering them opportunities to reconnect and safeguard their family network, as well as a safe environment to meet and enjoy new, positive experiences together. Activities on offer include meeting the animals, growing their own food, a play area, a wigwam and an outdoor kitchen.
“It has been hugely rewarding to see the difference this has made to so many groups of brothers and sisters who can trust that, here, they will have regular, fun and safe contact with each other supported by adult volunteers.
“We have grown so much and it’s also been fantastic to work with the charity-led campaign Stand Up For Siblings to try to prevent brothers and sisters from being separated when they are taken into care.”
Karen was dumbfounded to win a Pride of Scotland award. “I was so shocked, I just went silent when I was told, it took a long while to sink in! It’s great recognition although that is not why I founded STAR. I’m just glad there are people out there that think it is a wonderful idea and see how much it’s needed.”