To give child protection workers guidance when a care arrangement is required for siblings in the CEO's care.
Note: CEO refers to the Chief Executive Officer of the Department of Communities, and care arrangement refers to placement.
Child protection workers should make reasonable efforts to place siblings in the same care arrangement unless this is not in the best interests of the any of the siblings.
Where it is necessary to place siblings apart, child protection workers should make reasonable efforts to:
The following factors should be considered when child protection workers are making decisions about care arrangement options for siblings:
Siblings may be placed separately for the following reasons:
Child protection workers should also refer to Chapter 3.4: Child placement principle.
Siblings are children who share at least one birth parent and/or children who live or have lived for a significant period with other children in a family group. There are circumstances where children have significant attachments to other children within their extended family or network whom they view as siblings.
The term sibling could mean any of the following: full sibling, half sibling, step-sibling, adopted sibling, foster sibling and cousins.
Sibling groups can include any combination of the above and may be different for each child within the sibling group.
When making a decision about the care arrangements of siblings, it is important to assess each child’s needs including their relationship with and attachment to their sibling. It is essential, wherever possible, to understand the child’s perspective in order to be able to grasp the importance of maintaining the sibling connections.
Aspects to consider include:
Helpful background information includes:
If separate care arrangements must be made for very large sibling groups, the assessment will help make decisions about which sibling relationships are most essential to the wellbeing of specific children.
Children need to be spoken to individually (age permitting) and asked age-appropriate questions, such as:
Assessments should involve consultation with the senior practice development officer, team leader, senior child protection worker placement services, and/or clinical psychologist as required. It may be necessary to convene a special meeting to consider and make decisions about separating, uniting or re-uniting siblings.
When siblings cannot be placed together, prioritising regular contact is critical to maintaining their relationships and minimising the trauma of separation where this is appropriate. This is particularly important where siblings have separate care arrangements and are case managed by different districts.
Contact arrangements should be discussed and developed through case planning meetings and take into consideration the views of the siblings, parents, foster carers, and any other significant people. Other considerations include, but are not limited to, the age and routines of the children, the strength of the children’s relationships before entering the CEO's care, and the goal of the case plan (reunification or long term out-of-home care).
Siblings of different ages may have different contact needs, whether placed together or separately. These needs are likely to change throughout the child’s period in the CEO's care and will need to be reviewed regularly.
Siblings in separate care arrangements (or siblings who remain with family) should have opportunities to spend quality time together to maintain or rebuild a sense of belonging. Where some siblings reside in family care arrangements, child protection workers can allow informal arrangements for contact to be made between siblings where it is safe and appropriate. Where siblings are placed a significant distance apart, different options of contact need to be explored to promote the relationship – for example, maintaining regular contact through phone calls and text messages, emails and letters.
The foster carer can provide an important role in promoting the child’s sibling relationships as part of their identity/child development work to enhance the planned contact.
When child protection workers are making decisions about contact, they should consider supporting documentation such as:
During the placement of a sibling group, the foster family may not be able to continue to provide a care arrangement for all the children.
Reasons a care arrangement may change include:
Child protection workers need to: