February 2003Vol. 4, No. 1National Leadership Symposium on Siblings in Out-of-Home Care Presents Recommendations, Outlines Nex
On May 19-20, 2002, the Casey Family Programs National Center for Resource Family Support and the Florida-based Neighbor to Family Program co-sponsored the National Leadership Symposium on Siblings in Out-of-Home Care. Symposium participants discussed issues affecting brothers and sisters in foster, kinship, and adoptive placements. The gathering of foster care alumni, child welfare practitioners and policy makers, legal experts, resource families, and researchers discovered there is a lack of factual information regarding siblings in out-of-home care and that myths about siblings in placement still flourish.
Outcomes from the symposium included recommendations in the following areas:
- Best Interests. It is essential to place children with siblings and maximize their ability to maintain all family and community connections. Agencies must do a better job of recruiting and supporting resource families who are willing, able, and prepared to care for sibling groups.
- Definition of "Sibling." The concept of "sibling" should be expanded to cover connections through blood, adoption, or affinity and should include both actual (legal) siblings or "fictive" siblings—adults with whom children have connections based not on blood, but on caring relationships.
- Siblings Who Are Separated. When siblings are separated, they should be given the opportunity to know who their siblings are and where they are living. Resource families should facilitate communication and visits between siblings.
- Safety, Permanency, and Well-Being. Keeping family groups together (providing that the safety of none of the children is compromised) is part of Permanency Outcome 2 of the Federal Child and Family Services Reviews—the continuity of family relationships and connections are preserved for children.
Symposium participants are committed to continuing the efforts to gather meaningful data, develop a clearer understanding of the issues, make recommendations for public policy changes, and lead a public will-building campaign to improve outcomes for siblings in out-of-home care.
Transcripts from the symposium, background information, and presentations are available on the Casey Family Programs website at www.casey.org/Resources/Archive/Publications/SiblingSymposium.htm.