An urgent appeal has been issued for people to consider becoming adoptive parents.
Each year in Northern Ireland around 80 to 90 children are adopted.
But last year just 73 were adopted, of which 42% were adopted as part of a sibling group, after a drop in the number of applications from those interested in adoption.
The decrease in applications has led to a current shortage of available adopters who can meet the needs of the children requiring placement.
The Health and Social Care Board in Northern Ireland has teamed up with Adoption UK for this year’s Adoption Changes Lives campaign.
The campaign coincides with Adoption Week NI, which runs from October 14 to 20.
Marie Roulston, director of social care and children with the Health and Social Care Board, said the campaign is aimed at encouraging more people to consider becoming an adoptive parent.
“The children who wait the longest for adoption are brothers and sisters who need to be adopted together, children aged four and over and children with disabilities or developmental delay,” she said.
“We are urgently seeking adoptive parents for many children but in particular to help keep brothers and sisters together.
“There are currently 21 children on the adoption register actively seeking an adoptive placement with 13 needing to be placed alongside a brother or sister.”
Adoptive parents Lynne and Brian have encouraged others to consider adoption.
“We were like most adoptive parents initially seeking a younger child then we realised that we are slightly older and perhaps older children would be good for us,” they said.
“We were informed that if adopting siblings we would only be required to go through the process once and that was very encouraging. We knew we wanted a busy house as we both came from large families and adopting siblings was the right decision.
“We adopted a brother and sister aged four and five years and they were placed with us shortly after we had our application approved. They were great support for each other when they came to live with us.
“They just wanted to be loved and feel part of a home. We always say to them our house is the heart with great big arms around it no matter what happens.”
EJ Havlin, from Adoption UK, added: “While each adoption is unique, the decisions to keep brothers and sisters together are not simply based on their blood bond, but on the benefits for the children - their ability to relate, play, grow and thrive together. Every effort is made to make sure their relationships are nurtured and maintained.
“Adoptive families who take on sibling placements are giving their children the extraordinary, acknowledged benefit of maintaining family ties and a deep sense of belonging.”
If you would like to find out more about adoption, call for an information pack on 0800 0720 137 or log onto www.adoptionandfostering.hscni.net.