SCIE/NICE recommendations on looked after children: Promoting the quality of life of looked-after children and young people
Sibling placements and contact
Evidence suggests that membership of a sibling group is a unique part of the identity of a child or young person and can promote a sense of belonging and promote positive self-esteem and emotional wellbeing. Good management of sibling placement and contact is important to encourage and nurture healthy relationships, and can also help children and young people manage relationships they may find difficult. Siblings can include those who are not looked after and ‘sibling-like’ relationships that develop in a care setting.
Recommendation 15 Support sibling placements
Who should take action?
- Placement teams.
- Social workers and social work managers.
What action should they take? Open
- Ensure that all decisions taken about sibling care, placement and contact (including recommendations below) includes siblings who may be adopted, those who share one birth parent, and stepbrothers and stepsisters.
- Ensure contact orders made by a court are followed, and place siblings together unless assessments and the wishes of the child or young person suggest otherwise.
- Ensure a placement strategy is in place that addresses any shortage of foster carers or suitable residential placements to meet the needs of sibling groups, for example through:
- recruiting foster families specifically for sibling groups
- commissioning homes for small family groups
- meeting the additional financial and housing needs of foster carers to enable siblings to be placed together.
- Where a looked-after child or young person has a brother or sister in care, identify a placement that allows siblings to live together unless there is clear evidence that this would not be in their best interests, or the child or young person is unhappy with the arrangement.
- Ensure this approach applies equally to siblings of multiple heritage. Ensure siblings have the same social worker, wherever possible and practical.
- Establish a clear communication and liaison plan where siblings have different social workers.
- Where decisions are made to separate sibling family groups:
- record clearly and explain sensitively to the child or young person the reasons for separation (see also recommendations 1, 2, 7 and 24)
- make robust plans for ongoing sibling contact according to the wishes of the child or young person
- ensure social workers coordinate any ongoing contact desired by the child or young person, arranging appropriate supervision where necessary and supporting foster or residential carers
- review a separation decision if the circumstances of a sibling change.
- Provide additional support and resources that help the co-placement of siblings to prevent disruption and possible end of a placement for any child or young person in a sibling family group.
- Where siblings live or are placed in different local authority areas ensure that arrangements are in place for their independent reviewing officers or social workers to liaise on their needs, ensuring ongoing contact and any possibility of future co-placement are regularly considered from the perspective and wishes of each sibling (see recommendation 24).