Sibling Issues in Foster Care and Adoption

Child welfare professionals can make a critical contribution to the well-being of
children who enter care by preserving their connections with their brothers and
sisters. Approximately two-thirds of children in foster care in the United States have a
sibling also in care. For a variety of reasons, many of these siblings are not placed

together initially or become separated over time (Webster, Shlonsky, Shaw, & Brookhart,
2005; Wulczyn & Zimmerman, 2005). Foster youth describe this experience as “an extra
punishment, a separate loss, and another pain that is not needed” (YLAT, 2002).

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2 Comments

  1. I have been involved in a continuous dispute within New York State Family Court battling corruption and abuse for almost six years. The custodial parent has used false allegations consistently since the birth of our child. These actions have been facilitated and encouraged by the incentives and practices and policies of Family Courts. It is a pervasive abuse that is a racketeering design. The “service provider” and special interest groups such as the Childrens Law Center stand as representatives/attorneys for the children in Family Court disputes. The voice of the child sounds like and then speaks in “the best interest of the fund-raiser.”

  2. The Children’s Law Center in New York (CLCNY) engages in Reflective Advocacy Practice (RAP), which continually uses studies and pilots as ways to improve client advocacy and be an informative stakeholder on children’s issues. The post-adoption sibling visitation project is RAP project and an outgrowth of observations made by attorneys in the trenches of family court that this was an underserved and virtually unnoticed population that desperately needed more support.

    In short, federal legislation and regulations requires agencies to facilitate sibling visitation during foster care in order to ensure continued funding. However, as soon as a child is adopted, the mandated visits ceased and the relationship is no longer protected.

    We have an anecdotal sense that frequently, children adopted out of foster care are losing touch with their biological siblings. We’ve heard of this happening in a variety of different ways. Commonly, a younger child in a sibling group might be adopted, and that younger child’s adoptive parent might not be interested in supporting contact with the biological older siblings. Children may be adopted by different families, one or both of which might be unwilling or unable to support the contact. In my broken adoption cases, even siblings who were initially adopted by the same family have sometimes lost contact, because the adoptive parent perceives at least one of their adopted children as a “problem child” who can’t come in the house.

    We hypothesize that post-adoption sibling contact is, generally, a good thing, and that children who lose contact with their siblings after they (or their siblings) are adopted are likely to experience anxiety, guilt, and possibly depression. We are currently working on an article and presentations entitled “Are You Still My Family?”—this speaks to the predicted sense of confusion and loss of identity that we think could occur when two siblings who grew up together are suddenly being told that they cannot see each other.

    In short, we want to tell a story about the barriers (legal, non-legal) to post-adoption sibling contact, and how they can (and should) be overcome. How we should make post-adoption visitation more than a promise but a legal mandate.

    To that end, we are seeking teens over 18 and adults who may have experienced this separation to interview for our project. We also welcome speaking to young people under the age of 18 if their parent/legal guardian provides consent.

    If you have experienced this and are willing to speak about it please contact Dawn Post (dpost@clcny.org or Sarah McCarthy smccarthy@clcny.org).

    Thank you.
    Dawn J. Post
    Co-Director

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