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March 2004Vol. 5, No. 2Sibling Placement: Research to Practice

Barriers within the child welfare system sometimes keep siblings apart when they enter foster care. However, the authors of "Siblings and Out-of-Home Placement: Best Practices" suggest these barriers can be identified and minimized. The article, which appears in the October-December 2003 issue of Families in Society: The Journal of Contemporary Human Services, summarizes existing research on sibling relationships in families where children have been abused and neglected, discusses the conditions that sometimes lead to separation, and offers practical solutions to support maintaining sibling relationships during placement.

The authors suggest that the first step to removing barriers to sibling placement is for child welfare agencies to establish a policy that, absent a compelling reason, siblings should always be placed together when they enter foster care. The authors acknowledge that implementing such a policy may require a number of procedural changes (in how removal of children is undertaken and how reunification proceeds, for example).

A second step should be the active recruiting of foster and adoptive families that are willing to accept siblings. Knowing how to obtain waivers, such as when space or family size becomes an issue, can be essential.

Finally, the article offers a multidimensional assessment tool to assist caseworkers in evaluating the following issues in sibling cases:

  • The sibling relationship
  • Safety, including risk factors
  • Benefits to children of keeping siblings together
  • Benefits to children of separating siblings
  • Children's wishes and expectations
  • Available families

The full text of this article can be found on the Alliance for Children and Families website at

Related Items

More information about placement of siblings in foster care can be found in previous issues of Children's Bureau Express:

  • "National Leadership Symposium on Siblings in Out-of-Home Care Presents Recommendations, Outlines Next Steps" (February 2003)
  • "Article Highlights Foster Program That Keeps Siblings Together" (September/October 2001).