June 19th, 2007
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Categories: Sibling Issues

sibvisitcopyright2007JuliaFullerWelcome to the world of adoption and foster care where who a sibling is, or whether siblings should or shouldn’t be placed together, is sometimes based on one worker’s discretion. Some offices base their placement decisions on county policy, office policy, or on a placement team’s discretion. Of course, whoever made the decision, based it on “the best interest of the child.”

Both the federal and the state governments have written protocol, which outline how and when, siblings should be placed together. However, they added a clever little line at the end about deciding what is in the best interest of the child. Those involved in foster placement and adoptive placement freely use this clause, which renders every other protocol about placement null and void.

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According to the National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information National Adoption Information Clearinghouse

Kosonen (1996) found that caseworkers gave both practical reasons and reasons
related to the children’s best interest: the siblings were not in care; the children were brought into care at different times; a child needed individual attention and care; placement with siblings was disrupted; siblings had large age gaps; and a child chose to be placed separately.”

I am a little bitter about the system, based on personal experience. We had a sibling group placed in our home for 18 months; we were the only family the younger sibling had ever known. Based on “the best interest of the child,” they needed to move out of state to live with three older siblings whom they had never met until sibling visits were initiated. An unrelated family had also adopted those siblings.

Within a month of that sibling group leaving our home to live with their siblings, we found out that our two oldest adopted daughters had a birth sister in foster care in the next county. We thought, now the system can work for us, siblings should be raised together. We had our adoption worker request sibling visits, they were denied. We had our adoption worker submit our homestudy as the adoptive placement, we were denied. In “the best interest of the child,” she was going to be adopted by her foster parents, the only parents she had ever known.

This was a double whammy because we were licensed foster parents when she came into care, with the same state agency that she was placed through. Therefore, she should have been placed with us from the beginning. We have contact with all of our adult daughters’ extended family, so she would have grown up knowing her sisters, her new nieces, and her birth family. However, the family that adopted her has chosen not to know any of us.

With 14 years of licensed foster care behind us, we’ve seen this happen numerous times, and not just in our state of residence. Several families we know have also been told that legally their children are no longer siblings, because they have been adopted, therefore placement is not mandated. We have also seen this happen in the world of private adoption. It isn’t a small problem. There is no consistency in the process and the children are the ones suffering.

I’ve included some examples from the records of various states here in the continental U.S. I could have included thousands more. Do some research on your own, and then begin contacting your state senators and congressional representatives, and state ombudsman’s offices to demand change.

State of California, Health and Welfare Agency, Department of Social Services, August 4, 1998

“The CDSS and the CWDA have agreed upon legislative language that CWDA will include in Assembly Bill (AB) 2773 (Aroner, et. al), which, if passed, will become effective January 1, 1999. The proposed language in AB 2773 removes the relatives of a child’s half-sibling and all step relatives except for the step-parents and step-siblings of the child from the placement definition of relative, and removes the relatives of a child’s half-sibling from the eligibility definition of relative.

State of California, Health and Welfare Agency, Department of Social Services, August 4, 1998

“For purposes of certain foster care and adoptive placement considerations and identification of placement options in permanency plans only, sibling is defined under s. 48.38(4)(br) to mean a person who is a brother or sister of a child, whether by blood, marriage, or adoption, including a person who was a brother or sister of a child before the person was adopted or parental rights to the person were terminated. Note that this definition is not a general definition of sibling applied across the board in all situations. This definition of sibling applies only for the purpose of considering certain foster care or adoptive placements with siblings in certain situations.”

The definiton of a sibling according to the STATE OF WISCONSIN DCFS Memo Series 2007-04,Department of Health and Family Services February 27, 2007 Division of Children and Family Services

“initial thought may be that a sibling relationship only survives if the siblings were both siblings before an adoption or parental rights termination; that is, both siblings were born before a parental rights termination or adoption. That general provision provides that an adoption ends the relationship between
the adopted child and all other birth relatives. Therefore, Act 448 expands the definition of sibling for placement and permanency planning purposes to include children who were siblings as defined in s. 48.38(4)(br) and s. 938.38(4)(br) before or after parental rights termination or adoption of one or both
children, even if one child was not born before the parental rights termination or adoption.

Office of Children and Family Services in the state of New York have this policy:

We also found the local districts did not always document the participation of professionals (such as psychologists or psychiatrists) in separation decisions, as required by regulations. In addition, in some instances, there was no documentation indicating that the separated siblings had seen one another as often as required. We recommended that sibling placements be more closely overseen by OCFS.

According to an article in the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute in December 1998

The lawyers are asking the Supreme Court to review the Massachusetts courts’ decision that Hugo and Gloria, two siblings in foster care, be placed in separate home and adopted by different families. The case is Hugo P. v. George P., Mary D. and Linda Carlisle in her capacity as Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Social Services, Docket No. 98-7565.

Contact your state representative.
Contact your state senator.
Why should siblings be placed together?
Read more about foster care adoptions.
Read more about foster care.

One Response to “Who’s a Sibling in Adoption? Who isn’t?”

  1. locksmith irvine…

    Who_s a Sibling in Adoption? Who isn_t? – Parenting…

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