Sheffield foster family’s appeal for help to keep siblings together

Usma Saeed was a full-time working mother with three biological children, when she decided to become a foster carer.

By Nik Farah
Monday, 08 April, 2019, 13:11
Sheffield family has urged more people to foster siblings

In the past four years, her home – which she shares with her partner Ghulam, and her three kids, aged 18, 20, and 22 – has welcomed 18 children. Usma’s family has fostered children on short, medium, long, and respite placements. It’s a busy house, which is exactly how Usma, of Fir Vale, likes it to be.

Today, the family has four foster children living under its roof. Among them are brothers Yasin*, aged 12, and Aalam*, aged 14. Usma is sharing her story this month to mark National Siblings Day, in a bid to encourage more people to consider fostering sibling groups. This follows reports that suggest almost 2,000 children in care across England have been split up from their brothers and sisters.

National Siblings Day hopes to draw attention to a shortage of carers in the UK willing to foster siblings

“Currently there is a nationwide shortage of foster carers which includes a current shortfall of 720 carers across Yorkshire and the Humber,” says Usma, who still works part-time as a teaching assistant at a local primary school, and is acting chair of governors for a Sheffield secondary school.

“I first thought about fostering when I started my career in education 12 years ago. Working with children for over a decade led me to believe I could provide a loving family environment for young people in need.”

Usma approached Five Rivers Child Care, an independent fostering agency and social enterprise. The process began in late December 2014, and Usma’s first placement arrived two weeks later.

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“When my first placement arrived, I was a single-carer and worked five days a week,” she recalls.

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“I told my three boys that in order for this to work, I was going to need their help. They have supported me ever since.”

In 2017, Usma’s partner Ghulam also became a foster carer and the two now share the roles as carers. Usma has since reduced her working hours so that she has more time to spend at home to run a busy household of nine, as well as volunteering for Five Rivers.

Speaking about fostering siblings, Usma said: “There are so many cases where siblings are separated from one another. When I first started the fostering process, I noted in my application that I could foster anyone in need. Yasin* and Aalam*, regardless of the length of their placement, are part of our family. When the brothers first arrived, they were both very quiet and reserved, and did not leave each other’s side. Since, then they have gained confidence and have started to open up more. We dedicate a lot of our time teaching the children their self-worth and how to be the best versions of themselves, surrounded with the love and support they need.

“The house is busy and lively, and all seven children that live under our roof share a very close relationship and refer to one another as brothers.