Siblings set for STAR therapy at retreat

LTR DONALD CUTHBERT, KAREN MORRISON AND BARNIE. 18 JUNE 13

LTR DONALD CUTHBERT, KAREN MORRISON AND BARNIE. 18 JUNE 13

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BROTHERS and sisters in care will shortly be given the chance to enjoy a fun-packed day together in the country, thanks to the ground-breaking work of a new charity.

STAR (Sibling Therapeutic Assessment Retreat), based on a farmland setting overlooking the Tay near Newburgh, is believed to be the first such charity of its kind in the UK.

Its facilities will allow children to take part in a host of activities in barns, woodland, farm land and the beach.

Headed by Karen Morrison, who now chairs STAR, the charity will focus solely on the needs of children –from babies to 18 year-olds.

Governed by an experienced board of trustees, the charity will, among its aims, promote sibling contact within the care system.

Karen, who became aware of the need for such an organisation during her several years as a foster carer, said it would cater for children from Fife, Dundee and Perth.

Outlining the plans this week, Karen said that there were around 16,000 children in care in Scotland and more than half had siblings who did not live with them.

“Regular quality contact between separated brothers and sisters does not always happen.

“For some there is no contact at all. Where contact does happen, it is difficult to set up and maintain.

“Our relationships with our brothers and sisters are emotionally powerful and critically important. They are often the most important and longest lasting of our lives.

“Yet, children in care, already dealing with the trauma of being separated from their parents, are all too often split up from their siblings as well.

“Many children are leaving the care system feeling angry, abandoned, hopeless, guilty, alone and sad.

“If they were encouraged to keep the precious bond with their siblings, they would always have the support, friendship and love of each other for the rest of their lives.”

The fun, learning environment, said Karen, would allow the boys and girls to foster emotional bonds.

Activities in the countryside and outbuildings will include art and crafts, drama, music, gardening, outdoor play, healthy eating, exercise and team building.

The charity is building up its collection of animals, including three Shetland ponies, donated by Kingskettle farmer R. J. Prentice, which are sure to be big attractions for hugs and rides.

An obvious short-term benefit, said Karen, was that the children would learn and achieve something and have fun with their siblings.

The youngsters would also be happier and more confident when going back to their foster parents and schools.

STAR’s services will be available free to children in the care system, as well as all professionals involved in their care.

Foster carers and the children in their care will also benefit.

Members of the local community who have a hobby, interest or some skills can assist by sharing their expertise with the children.

Karen added: “STAR is a complex interaction of multiple ideas and activities that will stimulate, encourage, challenge and ultimately give these children something back that has been taken away from them - their brothers and sisters, their best friends and their hope.”