Within this relationship is the potential to share stories, information and emotional support. In my life I have had more than 30 foster siblings and. course of a sibling relationship, from its beginnings in child- hood to the end of life, and the Keywords foster care, siblings, identity, child development, sense of belonging . opportunity to enter changing phases of belonging and asso-. “The relationships people share with siblings are often the longest-lasting they Many sibling groups are separated upon entry into the foster care system; less as provide emotional support, companionship, and comfort in times of change.
DCFS also helps to facilitate visitation and communication by urging foster parents to promote such contact and offering to pay for contact by mail. The less urgent language of most statutes permits the state greater flexibility in disrupting sibling groups. The newest amendment to the California Welfare and Institutions Code January created a sibling exception to the provisions regarding termination of parental rights: Typically, parents have used the exception to challenge the termination of their parental rights TPR.
Courts have been largely unsympathetic to these claims. For example, as a result of the consent decree in Jesse E. New York City Department of Social Services, the Child Welfare Administration reformed its foster care system to increase the number of joint sibling placements. Hornsby consent decree includes a provision stating: When the monitor has reviewed sibling groups not placed together, in most of the situations, the separation was justified.
When children are placed apart, it is much more likely that an effective plan of visitation will be put into place. The leading case is Aristotle P. Johnson, in which seven children in foster care sued the Illinois Department of Child and Family Services for violating their constitutional rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments by separating them from one another and failing to provide visits on a reasonable basis.
This hesitance may be due partly to fear of the consequences of placing that right on an equal plane with the right to parental autonomy over children. Innovative Initiatives Help Fill Gaps Despite the absence of a constitutional right to sibling association and a comprehensive and consistent set of laws regarding siblings in the child welfare system, a number of innovative programs aimed at facilitating sibling contact have sprung up around the country to meet the needs of foster children.
It keeps siblings in their home communities in order to facilitate communication and supportive relationships between the foster parents and the biological parents.
When siblings are placed together through Neighbor-to-Neighbor, assessments of the biological parents are made within the foster home rather than by a caseworker by the foster parents, who have received training from caseworkers. Johnson also remarks on the benefit of the program for the foster parents themselves, who receive support and assistance.
Neighbor-to-Neighbor has been extremely successful in making joint placements. The goals of the program include providing sibling groups with safe foster family homes within their home community; offering a variety of services to these children to help them achieve healthy emotional, physical, social, and academic growth; and enhancing the bonds among siblings and other family members.
Casey Foundation designed Family-to-Family, which offers resources and technical aid to child welfare agencies working to create neighborhood-based systems for placing children in care. The program was founded inand since that time has been field tested and established in several states and Los Angeles County. The program aims to enhance community-based foster family networks so that children removed from their homes may remain in their communities and maintain relationships with their siblings.
The program was designed by two sisters who had been separated while in the foster care system. It is funded through donations and grants and has provided opportunities for hundreds of children to form strong bonds with their siblings. A program was initiated in New York City in to provide rent-free housing and extra benefits for foster parents who care for sibling groups.
Similarly, in Kentucky, foster parents willing to take in sibling groups receive financial rewards. Kansas included provisions relating to joint placement of siblings in its contracts when it privatized its child welfare system e. Key recommendations of social scientists and child welfare experts to improve casework practices include: Everyone associated with the child welfare system should become familiar with the research, as such awareness should lead to increased resources and attention directed at the problem.
Siblings could also visit the same therapist and foster families of separated siblings could employ the same respite care provider. Legislators and the courts have begun responding, but far too many children continue to be further traumatized by the loss of their brothers and sisters.
Maintaining Sibling Relationships for Children in Foster and Adoptive Placements
She is a second-year law student at Harvard Law School. Leathers, Separation from Siblings: Those placed initially into the same setting with all their siblings had almost twice the odds of reunifying, and those with at least one other sibling had almost one-third greater odds of an increased likelihood of reunifying than children not placed with their siblings.
The model suggested an increased likelihood of reunification for children who entered foster care within 1 month of all of their siblings. See Hegar, supra n. Bridgette Lery, Terry V. National Adoption Information Clearinghouse, supra n. However, most find abusive relationships among siblings to be a legitimate reason for separation. See also National Adoption Information Clearinghouse, supra n. They believed that finding out their mother had chosen to keep their siblings but not them, would be upsetting and too painful for the child to handle.
In cases of relative placements, prior unresolved issues with the family of origin were one reason that caregivers limited or terminated contacts, often at the cost of the sibling relationship. This is poignantly expressed by a caregiver who adopted her nephew age I do talk to a couple of them on the phone once in a while.
I do go up once a year, once every two years. Finally, some caregivers simply felt no need to actively pursue sibling relationships. An adoptive grandfather talked about what family meant to him and about his experiences with his many cousins who grew up as brothers and sisters.
Relationship between Siblings A final explanation for the degree of sibling contact is provided by the sibling relationship itself.
For cases where the siblings were originally placed together but were then separated or who always lived separately but maintained some contact, the children often seemed confused or unsure of their feelings about their siblings. In three cases, the children expressed some interest and curiosity about their brothers or sisters, but were reluctant to take steps to maintain the relationship.
In two other cases, the children expressed anger or aversion towards their siblings, and did not want to have a relationship. The caregiver of the boy accused of sexually abusing his sister reported that he did not want to see his sister. These positive influences included examples seen in traditional sibling relationships, such as older siblings being looked up to as role models and younger siblings providing a sense of worth and responsibility.
For families working towards reunification, maintaining sibling relationships was also seen as an important element of preserving family cohesiveness.
In cases where reunification was unlikely or impossible, caregivers commented on the importance of sibling relationships providing a sense of stability. Even in cases where sibling conflict made joint placement extremely difficult, caregivers struggled with the question of whether to separate siblings. One caregiver, who dealt with a difficult and at times violent older sibling, explained that she chose to keep the child in her home to avoid the trauma his removal would cause for the younger siblings, stating: In addition, the caregiver reported that J.
However, the caregiver also believed that the stability J. In cases where siblings were originally placed together but were then separated or who always lived separately but maintained some contact, the children often seemed confused or unsure of their feelings about their siblings.
According to caregivers, children had varied responses to their siblings, ranging from curiosity and longing to anger and indifference. For cases where children had never lived with their siblings, and knew little or nothing about them, caregivers were often very reluctant to tell the children in their care about their siblings or to encourage contact. These cases demonstrate that sibling relationships can have both a positive and negative impact on children in out-of-home care.
In our sample, it was left to the caregivers to determine whether the stress and confusion related to learning about a sibling or attempting to preserve contact were outweighed by the potential benefits of the siblings establishing or maintaining a relationship.
While this paper has focused primarily on children who are biologically related, we feel it is also appropriate to address the relationships between children who are not related, but were raised in the same household, and the effect separation can have on these children.
Discussion and Implications This exploratory study used interviews with foster and adoptive caregivers to advance inquiry on the nature of sibling relationships of children in long-term placement and the challenges and processes involved in maintaining contact between siblings.
The sample was small, voluntary, and heterogeneous. It included caregivers with children who had identified emotional and behavioral problems. Foster and adoptive children without such problems might have different experiences with their siblings.
However, given the large percentage of children in child welfare with emotional and behavioral problems Burns et al. Our study did not specifically examine the relationship between behavior problems and sibling contact, and we found little evidence of a link. However, this issue deserves specific investigation.
While this enhances the current foster care sibling literature which has primarily relied on administrative data or data from caseworkers, findings need to be understood as presenting one particular perspective.
To advance knowledge about sibling relationships in foster care, studies should be conducted which triangulate data from multiple sources. The size of the sample and the methods used also limit transferability of findings.
Changes in siblings after the death of a child from cancer.
Despite these limitations, findings from this study build on current knowledge of sibling relationships placed into out-of-home care in several ways and could provide the launching point for further inquiry. We identified three patterns in our study: The latter group had spent the shortest amount of time in out-of-home placement, and it is possible that, over time, siblings in this group would be separated. We further identified 4 factors that appear to be related to sibling contact: Quantitative analyses with more representative samples of children in out-of-home placements are advised to determine the generalizability of these factors.
Our study further illustrated that siblings have unique living situations and placement histories, which appear to affect their ability to maintain contact. Even siblings living together most of their lives had experienced periods of separation, which not only resulted in disrupted sibling relationships in several cases but also contributed to a range of emotions toward a sibling. Findings underscore that the earlier siblings can be placed together following entry into out-of-home placement, the greater the chance of maintaining the sibling relationship.
However, joint or early placement of sibling groups poses significant challenges for child welfare service systems already struggling with a shortage of foster care placements GAO, Finding qualified foster parents who are willing to care for entire sibling groups, in particular siblings with identified behavior problems, will require special effort and support.
It will also require a degree of frankness about the problems experienced by foster children along with the requisite specialized training to address these problems. Hegar discussed these definitional challenges in a recent review as they concern child welfare research.
For us, these definitional challenges raise two issues. Child welfare policy and practice with regard to sibling placement and contact need to be flexible enough to accommodate and support different types of sibling relationships.
In many counties, siblings are tracked via their relationship to the biological mother. This means that child welfare workers may often not be aware of the existence of other siblings.
Second, family relationships are complex. Parents separate, divorce, and create families with new partners. This creates an extended network of family relationships and caregiving responsibilities, which can become a source of conflict and stress e.
It is important to note that the complexity of family relationships is not specific to families involved with the child welfare system, as the number of nontraditional families has been steadily growing during the past decades across all social groups in U. However, our study illustrates how this complexity can become a hindrance in the development and maintenance of sibling relationships.
While these relationships frequently involve biological ties, such relationships may also develop outside of the parameters of family relationships. Given current child welfare policy, which places increasing emphasis on the sibling relationship, we expected active involvement by caseworkers in facilitating sibling contact. This was not the case in our sample. Caseworkers appeared to consider siblings in initial placement and permanency planning decisions, but did not play a role in the maintenance of sibling contact.
This was left to the judgment and initiative of caregivers. Our study further illuminated the reasons why foster caregivers facilitate or limit contact with siblings and the tremendous efforts involved in maintaining contact between siblings. More interesting perhaps were the very personal reasons that deterred caregivers, in particular relative caregivers, from making such efforts. In those instances, setting boundaries by limiting or controlling contact meant keeping family dysfunction, abuse, and painful experiences away from their own life.
The Nature of Sibling Relationships Finally, our small sample provided a glimpse into the varied nature of sibling relationships among foster children. The developmental literature has demonstrated that siblings can have a profound influence on development and shape experiences within the family Brody, However, little is known about how certain types of sibling relationships form and about the specific processes by which siblings influence one another.
This is particularly relevant to siblings in foster care given their disrupted family connections, their high risk status, and their high rates of behavior problems.
What influence do siblings in foster care have on each other? Research with non-clinical sibling population has generally taken one of two approaches in describing the contribution of sibling relationships to outcomes. A second approach focuses on the balance of power in the sibling relationship, which is often determined by birth order. The study reported stronger mediating effects for sister-sister pairs than for sister-brother pairs. Previous literature has shown, and our study suggested, that siblings can be role models; they can have a stabilizing, adaptive, and buffering effect and fulfill a need for relationship and connectedness.
This implies that not all sibling relationships are going to be beneficial and that policies concerning siblings in foster care need to be applied judiciously, considering the unique circumstances and needs of a particular child and sibling situation. Finally, ecological systems theory Bronfenbrenner, may provide a useful integrating framework for the varying influences on sibling relationship and contact in foster care. Foremost among these factors appear to be the caregivers whose own views of and experiences with family can impact whether they encourage or limit contact with siblings.
This would need to be considered in the implementation of policies related to sibling placement. We particularly encourage inquiry into the relationship of behavior problems and sibling contact. Special attention should also be paid to differences in sibling contact between children who have been adopted versus those who are in temporary or long-term out-of-home care placements. We thank Joyce Hightower for her transcription services, Brenda Bantados, Betty Cabrera, Shellane Calma, and Sally Mathiesen for their help with coding the data, and Inger Davis for her valuable insights and editorial assistance.
In addition, we thank the children and caregivers involved in the study for sharing their experiences with us. This is a PDF file of an unedited manuscript that has been accepted for publication. As a service to our customers we are providing this early version of the manuscript.
The manuscript will undergo copyediting, typesetting, and review of the resulting proof before it is published in its final citable form. Please note that during the production process errors may be discovered which could affect the content, and all legal disclaimers that apply to the journal pertain. Stress-resistant families and stress-resistant children.
Risk and protective factors in the development of psychopathology. Cambridge University Press; Boer F, Spiering SM. Siblings in foster care: Child Psychiatry and Human Development. Its causes and consequences. Annual Review of Psychology.
When my foster brother died, I realised the care system must change
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