Siblings in Adoption and Foster Care

Traumatic Separations and Honored Connections

by Edited by Deborah N. Silverstein and Susan Livingston Smith


This volume covers the emotional fallout when children who have been separated from their parents by foster care or adoption are also torn away from their siblings in the process and shows what we can do to keep children together.

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Cover image for Siblings in Adoption and Foster Care

December 2008


Pages 216
Volumes 1
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics Current Events and Issues/Society

Normally, our relationships with our brothers and sisters are the longest relationships in our lives, outlasting time with our parents, and most marriages today. The sibling relationship is emotionally powerful and critically important, giving us a sense of continuity throughout life. So what happens when a child loses contact not only with his or her parents, but with siblings too? That is what happens in thousands of cases each year inside the child welfare system. Children are surrendered by parents - or taken by the government - and placed in the foster care system. There, they are often separated and sent to different foster families, or adopted by different couples. In this work, a team of top experts details for us how this added separation futher traumatizes children. This stellar team of internationally known researchers - some of whom are themselves adoptees - shares with us hard, poignant, and personal insights, as well as ways we might act to solve this widespread problem.

Contributors address not only the importance of nurturing sibling bonds and mental health strategies to support those relationships, but also the legal rights of siblings to be together, as well as issues in international adoptions. Emerging and standing programs to encourage and facilitate adoptions that keep siblings together are featured, as are programs that at least enable them to stay in contact.

Table of Contents

ForwardPrefaceList of AbbreviationsIntroduction: All in the Family: Maintaining and Making ConnectionsChapter 1: Full, Half, Step, Foster, Adoptive, and Other: The Complex Nature of Sibling RelationshipsChapter 2: Siblings in Foster Care and Adoption: What We Know from ResearchChapter 3: Sibling Connections: The Importance of Nurturing Sibling Bonds in the Foster Care SystemChapter 4: The Experience of Sibling Loss in the Adjustment of Foster and Adopted ChildrenChapter 5: The Rights of Siblings in Foster Care and Adoption: A Legal PerspectiveChapter 6: Sibling Issues in Open Adoption Arrangements: Non-Biologically Related Adopted Siblings Experiences with Birthfamily ContactChapter 7: Keeping Sibling Connection AliveChapter 8: The Creation of a False Self: A Survival Strategy for Siblings of Wounded Adopted or Foster ChildrenChapter 9: Suddenly Sisters! Sibling Adjustment in ReunionChapter 10: Practice Strategies to Preserve Sibling RelationshipsChapter 11: Mental Health Strategies to Support Sibling Relationships: Nonverbal Interventions to Process Trauma and Maintain the Sibling BondChapter 12: Permanency for Siblings in Kinship FamiliesConclusion: What Have We Learned? Where Do We Need To Go?AppendixNotesGlossaryReferencesAbout the contributors



"Siblings in Adoption and Foster Care looks at brothers and sisters in both a deep and comprehensive manner. Theory and research, practice guidelines and stories, are all explored--thoroughly explored since these well-respected authors are clearly committed to making us aware of the importance of brothers and sisters, whether they be biological or not. They are committed to telling the stories of these special bonds, speaking about them along many avenues of knowledge. This is a book that we need to read and remember, to consult and quote."—Dan Hughes, Ph.D., Author of Building the Bonds of Attachment (2nd edition) and Attachment-Focused Family Therapy

"The sibling bond is one of the most threatened and fragile connections for children who find themselves stuck in the maze of the child welfare system. Never before has there been a book that so thoroughly addresses the issues, challenges practice and offers comprehensive research and practical suggestions for social workers, mental health providers and anyone who makes lifelong decisions for children and their families. This book is an outstanding contribution to the field of child welfare."—Jayne Schooler, Institute for Human Services, Columbus, Ohio, Coauthor of The Whole Life Adoption Book and Telling the Truth to Your Adopted Child

"The editors have brought together an amazing group of contributing authors including educators, clinicians, researchers, practitioners, psychologists, and youth who have experienced sibling separation to develop this comprehensive guide to sibling issues in adoption. This is a very clearly written and informative book.
The contributing authors masterfully highlight the dynamic aspects of sibling relationships in foster care and adoption, whether children are living together or apart.
The chapters bring alive the range of emotional reactions of siblings in specific situations such as open adoptions, reunions, kinship adoptions and also examines the impact on a family of a wounded sibling. A much needed resource on sibling relationships in adoption, this is a must read for clinicians, educators, and adoption professionals."—Ruth G. McRoy, Research Professor, The University of Texas School of Social Work

"This book provides the first comprehensive look at sibling relationships in all their complexity--maintaining relationships among siblings in out-of-home care, understanding sibling relationships created by foster care or adoption, reconnecting siblings who have been raised in different families, and appreciating the unique challenges of preserving sibling ties in kinship care. By combining clinical information, legal analysis, and personal stories, this volume contributes to our understanding of sibling relationships and provides a basic foundation for child welfare policy and practice that recognizes and values the importance of these relationships to children who have been, or are at risk of being, separated from their brothers and sisters."—Alice Bussiere, Attorney, Youth Law Center, San Francisco

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