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In the final part of our Your Questions Answered feature, we look at sibling relationships. Don't forget to read part 1 and part 2 of this exclusive series where we have had our expert panel answer your questions. 

Q: “Research suggests that siblings in care should be kept together where possible, however, I am working with a case where I believe it would be better if they were separated. How do you know when to stick to theoretical knowledge and when to trust your instinct?” Laura, Northampton

The short answer to this question is, social workers do not make professional judgments based on instincts alone, we use methodologies to underpin our assessments and decision making to enable evidence based practice. Furthermore, the Adoption Minimum Standards 2014, state there needs to be a clear decision-making process when deciding whether it is in the best interests of each child to be placed together or separate, and what the impact of this decision is on each child.

The separation of siblings is a complex area of social work practice as instinctively practitioners want to keep sibling groups together. This is because sibling relationships are likely to last a lifetime and can be an integral part of a child’s sense of identity. 

However, despite often having the same parents and living in the same family, siblings are usually very different.  This is because parents respond differently to children according to their age, gender, temperament and stage of development. The nature of the individual child’s attachment style is the primary consideration, as this will determine the parenting style the child needs, in their permanence placement.

Once the child’s attachment style and parenting needs have been established the pattern and strength of the sibling relationship needs to be assessed. There are some behavioural issues that indicate separation must be considered, such as highly sexualised behaviour, severe scapegoating or significant differences in attachment styles requiring diverse parenting styles.

If a decision has been made to separate siblings, it is important to maintain relevant levels of contact, as once the child has been able to develop a secure relationship with a significant adult then they have the platform to develop healthy sibling relationships for the future.

Jo Spender,
Social Work Trainer

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If you would like to have one of your questions answered by our expert panel, please get in touch. Answers will be published in the latest edition of Social Work News. If you would like to receive a digital copy straight into your inbox as soon as it becomes available, don’t forget to subscribe
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