Siblings in Late Permanent Placements

By Alan Rushton, Cherilyn Dance, David Quinton And Deborah

British Agencies for Adoption and Fostering


ISBN 1 873868 97 9

It is assumed that when children need permanent placement,
either through adoption or long-term fostering, they will be a
child alone. However, the reality is that more than 80 per cent of
looked-after children have siblings and 40 per cent of children in
care are placed as part of a sibling group. Information on how best
to undertake sibling placement and whether it works better than
separation is to be welcomed.

This Department of Health-funded research study recognises the
need for yet more research but the insights of its four authors
together with their wealth of relevant experiences shine through in
its 10 helpful and accessible chapters.

The process involved in making decisions about placement of
siblings is complex, involving the interaction of the law, human
rights, good practice, availability of carers and research.

Given the large and growing numbers of such placements, the last
is relatively scarce but with the present volume and other recent
commentaries (two out of the stable of the British Agencies for
Adoption and Fostering) this dearth is being corrected.

The book helpfully acknowledges the particular difficulties of
such placements and while it does not pretend to have all the
answers, it will ensure that practitioners and managers, at the
very least, know which questions to ask. Indeed one of the most
helpful parts of the book deals with the need to have a structured
method of investigating sibling relationships, the employment of
which is apparently rare. Equally important, the study demonstrates
the advantages of careful preparation for all concerned, especially
any birth children of the permanent carers. It also shows the need
to have better arrangements for contact between separated siblings.
Surprisingly, half of the placements studied were made without any
plan for sibling contact.

Two other points, among many others, are worth highlighting.
There is a plea from the research for greater attention to be paid
to offering not just general advice on sibling contact but, more
importantly, social workers promoting specific techniques. The
research also found that there was “evidence that personal views of
practitioners regarding separation or maintenance were driving the
decision-making”. This volume should mean that such a statement
should be a thing of the past.

Jim Richards is director, Catholic Children’s
Society (Westminster).

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