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Is it ever a good idea to separate siblings?

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 

I am in a position to adopt a little boy (age 4) that I love, and who loves me a lot.  He is doing okay in their home, but there is a lot of stress, and competition with their son of a similar age.  My son is older, and loves the little boy also.  Anyway, he has a younger sister (age 1) that is very, very attached to my friend.  My friend doesn't feel that she can parent the boy, but also feels that she shouldn't let the sister go.  They are foster parents.  My friend and I are very close, like sisters, and see each other often, even when we lived in different states, so the kids will get to see each other.  Not daily, or at times, even weekly, but lots. 

 

Is it a really bad idea to separate them even if it seems in their best interest?  

post #2 of 16

Well, I adopted one child out of a sibling set and I believe it was in his best interests to do so. I think the mantra of placing siblings together is, in many cases, in conflict with the precept that we ought to do what's in the best interests of each child.

 

There are lots of different views about this. It's an issue that's currently being discussed in many family courts right now. Some states have firm assumptions that it's always best to "keep siblings together" unless there's a demonstrable imminent threat to the wellbeing of the children to place them together. Other states don't have this assumption.

 

Placing siblings together begs these questions:

 

- Are we talking only about children who have the same mother AND father or are we including all half-siblings? If so, some families will be enormous so should we place ALL those children in one home even if it means waiting years to find a suitable home?

 

- Are we talking about siblings by marriage and cohabitation? Children who grow up in the same household but don't share genes are likely just as bonded as children who share genes, and certainly MORE bonded than children who share genes but grew up in separate households. Isn't it the bond that we're trying to preserve and not necessarily the blood tie? So why is the system constantly breaking up "sibling" sets formed by foster families?

 

- What about the situation of future siblings? Anyone in the foster system knows about negligent/abusive mothers who have 8, 10, 12, 14 children who ALL get removed by the state and placed in care... if the first 6 go into fostercare and find a suitable adoptive home together should that home have to accept the 7th, the 8th, the 13th in order to adopt the first 6... when the adoption process has already begun and the next baby is born, should they start the process over? Some courts have said yes and the children just linger in care until the oldest ones age out and the mother goes into menopause.

 

- How about the parents who cross state lines? They have some children in one state and those kids are put into fostercare then the parents move and have more kids and those kids go into fostercare. Should all those kids be placed together in one home? If so, in which state?

 

Ultimately, here's how I feel:

Studies show that permanency matters most - above so many other factors. It's simple: adopted children fair better than foster children, period. The longer a child lingers in fostercare, the worse the child's fate.

post #3 of 16

I agree with the points marsupial-mom posted. However...we arent talking about a 1 yr old that doesnt know the 4 yr old...or a baby born well after a bunch of older sibs are placed....or a baby that MAY be born in the future. What the OP seems to describe is a foster home parenting a 1 yr old girl and a 4 yr old boy, the foster mom wants to adopt the 1 yr old but not the 4 yr old. The OP loves the 4 yr old and would be happy to adopt just him. Thats a different situation. I have more conflicted feelings about that than the other scenarios m-m described. How long have these kids been in this foster home? How bonded are the children? How will it be explained that the 4 yr old is going to live with OP but sister is going to stay behind? WHY does the fm feel she can't adopt the older child, is it just the problems with the same-age child currently in the home?....and what would she do if the choice was adopting both or giving both up? Would she adopt the 4 yr old just to keep the 1 yr old? 

 

I think it could work to have OP adopt the 4 yr old, the fm keep the 1 yr old and the kids be allowed to maintain contact on a regular basis. Whether or not your agency will allow that though remains to be seen. Agencies tend to be very pro-sibling and in this situation there doesnt seem to be super compelling reasons to separate the children (such as abuse between the sibs, etc) Has the fm had the 1 yr old since birth/newborn? If so, thats certain something to consider as it would probably have more of an impact for that baby to lose the mother she's grown to love than to only see brother once a week or every few weeks. But if the kids have only been in the placement for a little while i think an effort should be made to place both children together. Here, a 1 yr old and 4 yr old sib set would be very easy to place, they would not "languish for years in foster care just to keep sibs together." 

post #4 of 16

My kids have siblings that are not placed with us. In our case one with went with her bio Dad, and the other is a safety issue. We have contact and my kids are fine with that. The have also since had siblings born since we have had them. Those foster parents also help keep contact with my kids :) None of the sibs are in our state. We keep in touch online

post #5 of 16

Federal law requires that agencies free children up for adoption if they've been in care for 15 out of 22 months.

https://www.childwelfare.gov/systemwide/laws_policies/federal/index.cfm?event=federalLegislation.viewLegis&id=4

 

My experience is that agencies routinely ignore this federal mandate. They push and push to reunify or "place siblings together" or race-match, etc. They simply do not consider that even 1 year in fostercare is a long time. 2,3,4 or more years is extremely damaging to children. And every single transition between caregivers does damage. When I looked this up a few years ago, the national average was over 2 years and many children spent over 4 years in care. That's TOO LONG. And I think most kids have more than one foster family, too. Kids are very routinely shuffled around whilst in fostercare.

 

We've looked a little at the perspective of the 4-year-old and whether or not it's in his interests to remove him from his sibling, but let's consider, too, the interests of the 1-year-old. Does it really make more sense to remove her from a parental connection to her current foster mom in order to maintain a sibling connection to her 4-year-old brother? If we put her interests first would we conclude that it makes sense to place her in a new adoptive home? If we're honestly looking at this from a perspective of doing the least harm, would we really want to severe this attachment between the girl and her current mom?

 

Now, it certainly seems as though it would be "easy" to find an adoptive home willing to take a 4-year-old and 1-year-old sibling set, however, that really remains to be seen. If their currently foster home doesn't want to adopt the 4-year-old then I have to think the issues are pretty serious and may deter a wide range of potential adoptive families. I'm not saying splitting the kids up is necessarily a good idea - because I don't have all the facts of the case. 

 

But I do believe that if anyone takes the federal mandate seriously and puts the child's best interests first, then keeping siblings together ALWAYS takes a back seat.

post #6 of 16
Quote:

 

 

But I do believe that if anyone takes the federal mandate seriously and puts the child's best interests first, then keeping siblings together ALWAYS takes a back seat.

 

My computer was acting up and so im a little late in coming back to this conversation but i wanted to comment on this. 

 

IMO if you are putting "the best interests of the child first" you WILL consider keeping siblings together because in many cases that IS in the child's best interests. I dont think it should be the ONLY consideration but it certainly should not "ALWAYS take a back seat"...why would it?? For many adopted children the sibling relationship is the only blood relationship they will know (until/unless they have their own children) and for children who are actually currently living together and bonded i think it should be even more of a consideration. I live in a state that seems all too willing to do sibling splits if they are having a hard time placing a sib group (usually its the younger and/or female children split off and adopted first.) I know if i found out one of my adopted kids had a sibling in foster care i would work hard on having that child placed here with us. Yes i'm sure there are situations in which siblings are kept together when its NOT in the kids' best interests but we also have a long history if siblings being separated, adopted, never see their brothers/sisters again. There should be some recognition of the very real loss for many children when they lose their siblings to other homes. In the case of the OP it sounds like they would maintain a relationship and thats a good thing so i hope it works out for all involved. 

post #7 of 16
I imagine that there are lots of cases where it's not in a child's best interest to keep siblings together. Certainly it should be considered important but not the only deciding factor in a child's placement.
post #8 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by queenjane View Post

 

IMO if you are putting "the best interests of the child first" you WILL consider keeping siblings together because in many cases that IS in the child's best interests. I dont think it should be the ONLY consideration but it certainly should not "ALWAYS take a back seat"...why would it?? For many adopted children the sibling relationship is the only blood relationship they will know (until/unless they have their own children)

I do not subscribe to the belief that adopted families are a last resort and that preserving blood bonds should be the first priority. I do not believe that we are second-best families.

 I do not agree that biology should trump other interests. Sharing a blood relationship with someone is not a good reason to be forced to live with that person, particularly when it means living in a less desirable situation or being separated from people with whom you've already grown attached.

post #9 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by marsupial-mom View Post

I do not subscribe to the belief that adopted families are a last resort and that preserving blood bonds should be the first priority. I do not believe that we are second-best families.

 I do not agree that biology should trump other interests. Sharing a blood relationship with someone is not a good reason to be forced to live with that person, particularly when it means living in a less desirable situation or being separated from people with whom you've already grown attached.

 

Then why not just take kids from bio parents and place them in families where they may be better off?

 

Do you think blood ties are important *at all*?

 

i have three adopted children. Clearly i do not believe we are "second best families" however i see the very real grief my children experience due to being separated from birthparents. Yes, even my son who never knew his birthmother and was placed with me as a newborn. 

 

I did not say that "biology should trump other interests"...what i asked you was do you believe biology should be a consideration AT ALL? Do you think the BOND forged between siblings who are already living in the same home should merit at least SOME consideration when deciding whether to separate those children? I'm thinking your answer is "no" given how strongly you are wording your responses. I also don't get the "forced to live with that person"...we are not talking about a child being sent to live with an abusive bio parent....we are talking about a four yr old child being separated from his 1 yr old biological sibling for reasons that DONT seem to be safety reasons. How do you define "less desirable"? How do you define "grown attached"? From those kinds of statements, it seems most children in foster care would *never* be sent home to birthparents or sent to live with bio family. Why bother attempts at reunification of an four month old infant with his birthmother if he's attached to foster mom? Why bother trying to place siblings together? When a new baby is born, dont call the adoptive family of the previous sibs, just place that baby wherever, its just a blood tie after all. No big deal. Not important. 

 

The OP is talking about a four yr old boy being separated from his baby sister because things are difficult right now in the foster home. I really hope that all the adults involved put the best interests of the children first and have at least attempted to make things work with both children in the home. We dont even know how long the children have been in this particular home. If placing the children in two separate homes is what is in their best interests i dont think its a horrible solution. But it really surprises me to basically read that we shouldnt even consider as important the bond these children have to each other or the fact that they are biological siblings. 

post #10 of 16

As I explained before, I was discussing the concept of sibling placements and blood relationships, not the specific case of the OP.

 

Being separated from your biological mother is completely different from being "separated" from a half-sister you've never met. Even in the case of an infant adopted at birth, the child has spent 9 months bonding with the bio mom and that is proven by their preference for her voice, food tastes, smell, etc.

 

I have, and will continue to argue, that actual attachment is a primary interest of children whereas blood relationships should be secondary (eg - "take a back seat"). I have NOT argued that children won't experience a sense of loss from losing secondary interests; I have only argued that laws and practices relating to children's bests interests ought to actually take into consideration their primary interests. Sorry if that's difficult for you to understand.

 

---

In this particular case of the OP, one would have to weigh the interests of the children:

 

- For the girl, who has already lost her bio mom, she will now be forced to lose either her primary caregiver OR her brother. There is no solution that allows her to keep both. So we need to weigh which is more important in a child's development. I argue that the primary caregiver (nonblood bond) is more important because studies clearly show that disruption in that area is more likely to lead to impairments in mental, emotional, and even physical development whereas there are not any studies that show the loss of a sibling has as significant of an effect.

 

- For the boy, he is faced with losing his current primary caregiver AND his sister OR just the primary caregiver. For him, it would be better to lose just one. However, it's not fair to prioritize his interests over his sister's. So we have a conundrum. THIS is the situation in sibling placements - it's almost always only in the bests interests of some siblings and usually harms other siblings. The entire concept of sibling placements often necessarily pits individual children's interests against one another.


Edited by marsupial-mom - 7/10/13 at 10:01am
post #11 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by marsupial-mom View Post
 Sorry if that's difficult for you to understand.

 

 

 

eyesroll.gif

 

Clearly this is a hot button issue for you since you adopted one child out of a sib set.  I adopted a sibling set when i didnt have to, when i could have just kept the toddler boy i had and let the older girl be placed elsewhere (she had not ever been placed with me at that point but did have a bond with her baby brother) and we went through like two years of parenting hell with her issues to the point where i probably would have considered disrupting the placement but i couldnt do that to her brother. And we've come out the other side where now things are mostly going really well. So clearly we are coming from different sides of the experience. I'll just leave it at that. 

post #12 of 16

For the record, we offered to adopt 3 of my son's half-siblings - none of whom he has ever lived with - but that wasn't good enough because we wouldn't take the whole group of them (8 and counting, bio mom is pregnant again). Nevermind that no one was willing/able to adopt the entire lot.

 

So we went to court and we won - in part on the basis that our son's interests were best served by preserving the relationship he had with us rather than forming new relationships with half-siblings with whom he never lived. But if we didn't have the finances to fight in court we wouldn't have been able to keep him (and him keep us).

 

So yeah, "clearly we are coming from different sides of the experience."

post #13 of 16
Thread Starter 
Well, if anyone cares, it turns out the little girl only had a hesitation with me because I am usually.holding my own toddler. We worked through that and she is very happy with me/at my house now, too. So, we are planning to take both childen, should no kin turn up or anything.

He is not a discipline problem. I can have him whole days and have no issues. Some days they don't have issues, but when they do, I can talk him down, and he really tests her. Sigh, talk him down makes it sounds worse than it is. . It is just that boy and fm butt heads a lot and she doesn't feel that , long term, she is best for him. Maybe it is just our style or something? She isnt bad for him now; he isnt unhappy or always in trouble. It is hard to explain.
post #14 of 16
He could also be in a honeymoon phase with you.

My son and his two sisters were all adopted by different families. While it's working out well, I know everyone wishes they could be together all the time. I know it would crush the kids if any of us adults "broke up" and they didn't have access to each other.
post #15 of 16
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Polliwog View Post

He could also be in a honeymoon phase with you.
 

 

Absolutely.  Eyes wide open on that.

post #16 of 16

Glad to know they'll be placed together :) Not wholly against separation in all cases, but it is nice that two young siblings can grow up together.

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