Initiative Policy Goal
Make all efforts to place siblings together; when not possible require and facilitate quality visitation among siblings unless safety is an issue. See Related Resources.
Young people tell us that one of their highest needs is to stay connected with their siblings when placement in foster care is necessary. Indeed, as adults we know that sibling relationships are our most extensive life-long connections. We experienced the same family and growing up, and their memories are often ours. But too often for youth in the foster care system, being removed from parents also means losing contact with brothers and sisters. For youth who were removed as adolescents this may mean leaving younger brothers and sisters for whom they were the primary caregiver, or older siblings who took a parenting role. As research increasingly shows, sibling relationships are critical social capital and therefore essential in the healthy development of adolescents and young adults.
The federal Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 requires states to make "reasonable efforts...to place siblings removed from their home in the same foster care, kinship guardianship, or adoptive placement...and in the case of siblings removed from their home who are not jointly placed, to provide frequent visitation or other ongoing interaction between the siblings."
Even prior to passage of the national Fostering Connections Act in 2008, states such as Maine, Iowa and Tennessee passed sibling connections legislation that was inspired and in some cases drafted by youth in foster care. Youth Leadership Boards from several Initiative sites produced advocacy documents, and each one emphasizes the importance of sibling connections. In the Iowa youth document, L.I.F.E, Kayla states: "Keeping siblings together helps the siblings grow fully. When I didn't have my siblings it was the hardest thing and I didn't feel as though I was growing the way I should be growing. I have now gotten in contact with my siblings and I finally feel whole." Michigan youths' Voice 2 document puts it in stark terms: "We want to stay connected to our brothers and sisters." In Georgia, young adults state they want to be placed with their siblings; if they cannot be placed together they want regular visits; and as a last resort they at least want to be informed of significant events in the lives of their brothers and sisters. The passage of Maine LD 1682, An Act To Support Sibling Rights in Child Welfare Custody Matters (now Public Law, Chapter 526), was spearheaded by members of the Maine Youth Leadership Advisory Team.
Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 http://www.fosteringconnections.org/tools/assets/files/Public_Law_110-351.pdf
For more information on the law, visiting the Fostering Connections Resource Center at http://www.fosteringconnections.org/
Maine LD 1682, An Act To Support Sibling Rights in Child Welfare Custody Matters (now Public Law, Chapter 526), http://www.legislature.maine.gov/legis/bills_122nd/chapters/PUBLIC526-1.asp
L.I.F.E.: Listen.Inform.Future.Empower; an Iowa youth advocacy document of Moving On Up! Passport to Independence Youth Leadership Board, Youth Connections Council, and elevateTM
EmpowerMEnt: Hearing the "Me" in the Voices of Georgia's Foster Youth; Metropolitan Atlanta Youth Opportunities Initiative
Social Capital: Building Quality Networks for Young People in Foster Care; Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative