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My child is in care and is having a sibling assessment, what does this mean?

View profile for Isabelle Swirles
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A sibling assessment will evaluate the bond and relationship between siblings. A sibling can be defined as a person whom you share at least one biological parent with. An assessment will consider the sibling dynamic, and the impact separation would have on this. A sibling assessment is usually undertaken to inform an initial or final care plan.

What is the purpose of a sibling assessment?

It aims to look at brother/sister relationships and determine if they would be at a larger detriment if separated in their interim or long-term placement rather than being placed together. If there are multiple children, they can assess which siblings would benefit from remaining together and if separated, the level of contact which should be in place to reduce any harm separation may invoke. It is a careful process that studies the emotional welfare and possible consequences of children being placed together or separately.

Research has shown that being able to keep children and young people in care together with siblings can have a positive impact on the permanency of a foster placement.

Whilst the local authority is under a legal obligation to consider keeping siblings together, it is not always possible due to the number of foster placements available or the children’s individual needs. In those cases, sibling contact should be promoted, where possible.

Do we have a right to sibling contact?

Children have the right to a relationship with their brother/sister whilst in the care of the local authority, albeit if in a family placement or in a Local Authority approved foster placement. The local authority should arrange for siblings to spend time together provided it is in their best interests and it is in line with the children’s wishes and feelings. The significance and importance of sibling relationships for a child should feature in care planning to include contact arrangements. When children are placed in long term foster care, the assumption is that sibling contact should be ongoing, but it may be that the frequency of such contact is reduced to allow stability to be achieved for the children. Sibling contact is more likely to be promoted if the siblings are separated in long term foster care rather than adoption as contact post-adoption is relatively uncommon for all birth family.

Section 34(1) of the Children Act 1989 states children’s services must allow the child reasonable contact with parents, siblings and other family members such as grandparents, so long as this is consistent with the child’s welfare. This relates to children who are subject to a Full Care Order only and are in Local Authority care in a foster placement or another approved placement with a person known to the child(ren). It is possible that an application could be made to the Court to seek or enforce sibling contact with a child who is subject to a Full Care Order. If the children are in a family placement subject to another type of order such as a Special Guardianship Order or a Child Arrangements Order, an application for a section 8 order for contact could be made.

Separation of siblings could be considered a violation of Article 8 rights and any decisions surrounding siblings and their long-term placement/contact arrangements should take into account the sibling relationship. Article 8 requires siblings to have a ‘real relationship’ which can be difficult to determine, and it could be questioned whether a newborn baby and older sibling could constitute a ‘real relationship’ when they have not yet built a bond. Adoption orders bring existing Article 8 rights between parents and children to an end. It is unclear whether this also applies to siblings as there are occasions whereby contact is promoted with siblings in the long term if the adoptive family are in agreement. In certain circumstances contact orders can be made alongside adoption orders to promote contact between siblings.

It is said that the sibling relationship is one of the most enduring relationships of a child’s life and therefore the importance of the sibling relationship should be a key consideration for the Court.

If you have Local Authority involvement with your children and you have concerns surrounding your children being separated/their contact, Johnson Astills may be able to assist.  

Please get in touch with Johnson Astills today and we would be more than happy to discuss your requirements further. Please call us at our office in Leicester on 0116 255 4855 or our office in Loughborough on 01509 610 312 and ask to speak to a member of the Care Team. Alternatively, you may prefer to email us at or fill in our enquiry form.