Revisiting the Presumption of Jointly Placing Siblings in Foster Care.
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Until fairly recently, it was assumed that when parents divorced and custody was being assigned, it was in the child’s best interest to be placed with the mother.1 It took time and some tragic and avoidable situations to inform policy makers that this blanket assumption should be rebuttable—if a presumption at all. We have now come to a similar crossroad involving the placement of children in foster care. There is a presumption in law and policy that it is in the best interest of children going into foster care that they be placed together with their siblings. We address the strength of this assumption and propose that, while children may have sibling relationships lasting longer than relationships with partners, parents, or children,2 the presumption that keeping siblings together is always best should be carefully evaluated to take individual circumstances into consideration. Rivalry and violence between siblings are unfortunate realities that must be considered when determining what would truly be in the best interest of the children. We begin by presenting an overview of the scope and magnitude of the We begin by presenting an overview of the scope and magnitude of the issue. Following this introduction, we provide an overview of states’ laws and policies concerning the placement of siblings in foster care. This is followed by a review of relevant federal laws and programs, followed by a brief case study and analysis. The last section of this article reviews some recent studies and theories that can help inform practitioners in the child welfare system.
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