Sibling relationships can be critical to children's development and emotional well-being and may be especially crucial when children experience out-of-home placements. Some research suggests that children and youth experience better outcomes when placed with their siblings and that the sibling bond may promote resilience under adverse conditions. Sibling relationships should be considered at multiple points throughout a case, including family assessments, entry into out-of-home placement, and placement in a permanent home. When siblings must enter out-of-home care, it is preferred to place them together with relatives or kin, as it can minimize trauma and help children and youth maintain connections to their families, their communities, and their cultures. Children of color are less likely than White children to be placed with a relative or close family friend. Children from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds are also more likely to be separated from their siblings, so efforts to maintain sibling groups may be especially beneficial for these populations. The following resources offer strategies that help promote and support sibling connections throughout the permanency process, including State and local examples.
Family Preservation Matters: Why Kinship Care for Black Families, Native American Families, and Other Families of Color Is Critical to Preserve Culture and Restore Family Bonds
Juvenile Law Center
Focuses on the importance of prioritizing kinship care for Black and Native families to promote racial equity, ensure a sense of culture, and restore family bonds, including between siblings.
How Are Child Protection Agencies Promoting and Supporting Joint Sibling Placements and Adoptions?
Casey Family Programs (2020)
Explains how keeping siblings together can result in better permanency outcomes, including greater placement stability, improved mental well-being, and higher rates of reunification. The resource also provides strategies for keeping siblings together, such as recruiting foster and adoptive homes specifically for sibling groups.
Keeping Siblings Together
Explains why sibling relationships are important to children in foster care. This resource also answers commonly asked questions about adopting sibling groups.
Neighbor To Family
Describes a foster care model that focuses on keeping siblings together, engaging families, working with qualified foster caregivers, and providing supports and services to foster and birth families.
Neighbor to Family Sibling Foster Care Model
California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare (2021)
Provides program information, education and training resources, and peer-reviewed research on the Neighbor To Family Sibling model.
Revisiting Conventional Wisdom: What Do We Know From 30 Years of Research on Sibling Placement in Foster Care?
DiGiovanni & Font (2021)
Children and Youth Services Review, 126
Explores research relating to sibling placement in out-of-home care and assesses how keeping siblings together affects stability, permanency, and well-being.
Siblings in Foster Care and Adoption
North American Council on Adoptable Children
Shares policy and practice recommendations for child welfare agencies placing siblings in out-of-home care.
Siblings in Foster Care: Assessment Considerations for Child Welfare Professionals [Video]
Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare
Explores research related to the impact of maintaining sibling connections on child and family development, foster care placement stability, permanency, and well-being. The training module includes assessment considerations for child welfare professionals.
Sibling Issues in Foster Care and Adoption
Strengthening Kinship Care and Prioritizing Equitable Support for Kinship Caregivers
Capacity Building Center for States (2022)
Children’s Bureau Express, 23(8)
Describes how prioritizing kinship care and keeping siblings together with family members can help mitigate some of the challenges of an inequitable child welfare system. The article also explains the importance of maintaining connections to community and culture, especially for historically disenfranchised populations.
State and local examples
Assessing and Maintaining Sibling Relationships
Kentucky Department for Community Based Services (2022)
Outlines standards of practice for caseworkers in Kentucky related to assessing and enhancing the relationship between siblings involved with the child welfare system.
Policy on Sibling Placement, Separation, Visitation, and Contact in Permanency (PDF - 205 KB)
Minnesota Department of Human Services (2022)
Outlines requirements for the State of Minnesota related to placing siblings together and provides considerations for separating siblings when establishing permanency. Also read the State’s Sibling Bill of Rights (PDF - 124 KB)
Sibling Placement and Visitation
Describes a Federal mandate that requires child welfare agencies to make reasonable efforts to place siblings together in foster care or, when siblings cannot be placed together, to facilitate ongoing contact. The website also reviews California’s position on the placement of siblings together in foster care.