Berkshire Safeguarding Children Board Procedures
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5.1.19 Placing Sibling Groups

This chapter was added to this manual in January 2015.


  1. Placing Sibling Groups
  2. What Constitutes a Sibling Group
  3. The Advantages of Placing Siblings Together
  4. Disadvantages of Placing Siblings Together
  5. Issues to Consider When Deciding If Siblings Should be Separated
  6. Summary of the Main Points

    Appendix 1 - Placing Sibling Groups

1. Placing Sibling Groups

It is the Department's policy that wherever appropriate, siblings should be placed together when seeking permanent substitute family placements.

In all cases, sibling groups should be assessed using the attached profile (Appendix 1 - Placing Sibling Groups). Each child must be assessed according to their individual needs. A copy of the assessment and any supplementary reports should be attached to the Child's Permanence Report when the matter is presented to the Adoption Panel.

The needs of each child must be considered and assessed separately before efforts are made to reconcile the needs of all the siblings. Assessing the depth and quality of attachments between sibling groups and the individual positive and negative roles may be more complicated if children are placed in separate foster homes awaiting a permanent placement. If it is not possible or practicable to place all the siblings together in a foster home, then opportunities for the children to spend as much time together at regular intervals as possible must be given. This will give the assessor the chance to assess individual children's needs, sibling rivalry and any dysfunctional behaviour between the children.

If the assessment concludes that all the siblings should be placed together, then serious consideration should be given to placing all the children with skilled foster carers able to offer a bridging placement to the children to begin the process of preparing the children for a permanent substitute family. This is particularly important where contact between siblings placed in separate foster homes has not been regular or consistent.

A clear recommendation should be made (based on the assessment of each individual child's needs and the sibling dynamics) as to whether a permanent placement together is in the children's best interests in the present or in the long term. Apparent lack of resources should not be an immediate deciding factor, nor should the availability of a family already approved. The prime consideration must be the needs of the children.

2. What Constitutes a Sibling Group

Children who have the same birth parents. This means the same birth mother or birth father (irrespective of whether the birth parents are married, cohabit, live apart or are married to or living with other partners).

It is existing Departmental policy that where birth parents place their child for adoption and then have another child and wish to place that child for adoption, the original adoptive couple must be approached to see if they wish to be considered as prospective adoptive parents for the sibling. (This also applies where children have been placed for adoption against the wishes of their birth parents and plans for adoption are made in respect of subsequent children.) However, it is important that the needs of the children already placed are fully considered and an assessment is carried out regarding whether or not the placement of another child is appropriate. If a child is not to be placed with its adopted sibling/s, then arrangements regarding the nature and form of ongoing sibling contact must be discussed with the adoptive families for all the siblings.

3. The Advantages of Placing Siblings Together

Children with a shared sense of the past have a shared sense of the future. Sibling relationships are some of the most enduring that we make throughout our lives.

Siblings can provide one another with a degree of mutual support.

If there has been a traumatic disruption of relationships with birth parents, the maintenance of sibling relationships provides a sense of continuity.

4. Disadvantages of Placing Siblings Together

The combined demands, needs, behaviour and role of each child can be identified as being so overwhelming that successful integration and attachment to an adoptive family can be seriously hampered.

Some sibling relationships are so dysfunctional that there would be a serious risk to the welfare of individual children.

The risks of disruption are significantly increased.

5. Issues to Consider When Deciding If Siblings Should be Separated

Do all the children wish to be placed together?

Are the children's needs in conflict?

Are individual roles detrimental to each child's growth if the siblings remain together?

What individual roles do the children have. These should be identified during the assessment and serious consideration should be given to whether or not any adoptive family would be able to address the negative roles within the sibling group in the interests of each individual child.

In assessing whether a sibling group should remain together, Social Workers are advised to complete the attached assessment form. Individual work will be necessary to determine each child's needs; how they interact within the group, etc. Various methods of obtaining the information are available and advice can be obtained from the Fostering Social Worker or the Adoption Link Social Worker and CAMHS.

If, after assessment and a recommendation from Adoption Panel, a decision is made to separate the siblings, the following points should be borne in mind:

  1. Separation in most cases will be a major life event, and work will have to be undertaken to begin the process of helping the children to understand why they will no longer live together and allow them to grieve. Children need the full picture, even if it is not a very nice picture;
  2. A new Care Plan will need to be drawn up. The Care Plan must include factors relating to the degree, nature and form of contact between the siblings once they are placed in their permanent substitute families. It is vital that the permanent substitute families meet each other (before placement if possible) and are given all relevant information regarding the other siblings and agree in writing to the plans for future contact.

6. Summary of the Main Points

It is Departmental policy, as far as the placement of sibling groups is concerned, that as far as possible they should be kept together. It makes sense that this possibility should always be considered first. Attention must be given to any difficulty in meeting the needs of individual children. It may be difficult to find a family which is an appropriate match and has the skills to meet the needs of the individual children and sufficient time and resources should be given to finding the most suitable family.

On occasion, after detailed assessment, it will be decided to separate siblings and if this happens, a plan will be developed to maintain contact (in whatever form it is decided) between the siblings. It is essential that families are found who can accept the commitment of working together in order to maintain the children's contact with one another.

When a sibling group is placed together, attention must be paid to the family's continuing ability to meet the needs of more than one child with all the investment of time and energy and possible stress that this may involve. Flexible support services and resources should be made available to support permanent substitute families who take on the care of a group of siblings post placement and post any order being granted.

Appendix One - Placing Sibling Groups Form

Click here to view Appendix 1 - Placing Sibling Groups.