Consideration must be given to the fact that a sibling relationship is the longest lasting relationship for a child and placing siblings together, whenever possible, preserves the family unit. In determining whether to separate the siblings, as a team, staff must consider positives and negatives of keeping children together, thoroughly explore, and decide best interests. Special issues exist for siblings from homes where there has been exposure to violence, chronic neglect, or other abuse.
- Consider the emotional ties existing between and among the siblings.
- Consider the degree of harm which each child is likely to experience as a result of separation.
- Consider the positives and negatives of keeping the children together.
- Short term and long range effects of separation on the children must be addressed in making the decision.
- Consider their sibling bonds/relationships if placing separately is necessary.
Who is considered a sibling?
A child who shares a birth parent or legal parent with one or more other children; OR
A child who has lived together as a family with one or more other children whom he or she identifies as a sibling.
The Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 (Public Law 110-351) is the first federal law which specifically addresses the importance of keeping siblings together. It provides for:
· Reasonable Efforts
· Placing siblings removed from their home together unless contrary to their safety or well-being and if separated, provide frequent visitation or other ongoing interaction unless contrary to their safety or well-being
Separated sibling visitation
There must be a plan for future contact between children if separation is approved. The plan must be one to which each caretaker can commit. If visits are ordered but will not begin within 72 hours after shelter hearing, we must provide justification to the Court for the delay or lack of visits. Sibling contact and efforts to reunite siblings must be addressed at Judicial Review hearings for separated siblings.
How often must visitation occur between separated siblings?
- Weekly, in person, unless Court determines otherwise
Strategies to preserve ties between separated siblings
- Place siblings with relatives who are relatives to one another or who have a relationship to one another
- Place siblings in geographical proximity to one another
- In addition to arranging for regular visits as required:
Ø Arrange for contact by mail, email, social media, etc.
Ø Arrange for joint outings or joint participation in summer programs
Ø Arrange for joint respite care
- Case worker, GAL, and service providers are able to attend to all of the children in one location
- Visits with parents may be simplified
- No need to facilitate sibling visitations
Separated siblings and sibling visitation is not only addressed in the federal law, Fostering Connections Act, but also more specifically in Chapter 39 and Florida Administrative Code