If you and your children are going through Care Proceedings and it has been agreed that a Sibling Attachment Assessment is required, here’s what to expect…
Sibling relationships are emotionally powerful and critically important not only in childhood but over the course of a lifetime. Siblings tend to form a child’s first peer group, and they typically spend more time with each other than with anyone else. Children learn social skills, particularly in sharing and managing conflict, from negotiating with brothers and sisters.
Sibling Relationships can come in many different forms. The definition of ‘sibling’ is defined as: “Children who share at least one parent and/or children who live or have lived for a significant period with other children in a family group.”
Sibling relationships are often the longest lasting relationships of all family relationships so it is important to recognise that keeping siblings together, whether in Foster care or adoption, can be crucial. There is a general view that placing siblings together is a good thing for placement stability and for child development.
The law that must be considered when assessing whether siblings should be placed together includes:
The Children Act 1989 which emphasises the need to place siblings together 'so far as is reasonably practicable and consistent with his/her welfare’.
The Children and Young Persons Act 2008 places a duty on Local Authorities to accommodate siblings together in care, so far as is reasonably practicable and subject to welfare considerations.
The Adoption and Children Act 2002 requires the court to consider "the likely effect on the child (throughout his/her life) of having ceased to be a member of the original family and become an adopted person".
Article 8 of the Human Rights Act 1998 covers the right to private and family life and prohibits interference with this.
Social workers are usually the best placed professional to complete the sibling attachment assessment as they have usually been working on your case for some time. Placing siblings together is not straightforward and there are many factors to take into account. In practice social workers try to keep siblings together but, for many different reasons, it is not always possible.
There are many factors that affect the final decision of whether to place siblings together or not. These include:
- What are the positives and negatives that this relationship holds for each sibling (it may be positive for one sibling and negative for another)
- What are other relevant people's views of this relationship (birth parents, teachers, foster carers, Social Workers)
- The wishes and feelings of the children
- the age of the children involved
- What evidence is there of warmth and care between the siblings?
- How much conflict is there -that is above what would be described as 'normal' sibling rivalry?
- Have siblings been involved in abusing each other -Physically, Sexually or Emotionally?
- How much do siblings identify with each other, consider if they look alike, act alike, and what they understand about what has happened to them?
- Consider overall dynamics of a large sibling group, plus each individual relationship within it
- What has been done to improve sibling relationships?
- Consider relevance of any factors which may indicate siblings should be placed separately
- Health Factors, of one or more children and how this impacts upon their relationship.
The key factors that will be assessed are:
- The degree of warmth
- The degree of conflict
- The degree of rivalry
- The degree to which one sibling nurtures or dominates the other
Social workers are also required to look at the overall dynamics of a large sibling group and also consider what work could be done to improve sibling relationships.
There may also be circumstances which may indicate that siblings should be placed separately. These circumstances may include:
- Intense levels of conflict between siblings
- Dominant or abusive behaviour from one or more of the siblings
- Highly sexualised behaviour with each other / children who have been sexually abused
- Siblings acting as triggers to each other’s traumatic experience
A Sibling Assessment Form is attached to this article to give you a better understanding of the types of things that the assessor will look at when assessing sibling’s attachment.
Here at Emery Johnson Astills, we have extensive experience in advising and assisting parents at all stages of involvement with the Local Authority including Child Protection Conferences, Pre-Proceedings meetings and during Care Proceedings.
Should you require representation at Court or need advice at the stage of conferences then please contact Emery Johnson Astills at either our Leicester Office on 0116 2554855 or our Loughborough Office on 01509 610312 and ask for a member of the Care Team so that we can advise you accordingly. Alternatively please email us on firstname.lastname@example.org and a member of or team will be happy to assist you.