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It sounds cruel, but we must separate siblings

(16 Posts)
Lilka Fri 21-Dec-12 12:06:04

...writes Martin Narey in The Times today

It's behind their paywall, but luckily Martin has made it available elsewhere

I was pretty impressed! He's really listening to adoptive parents smile Obviously it needs to be on a case by case basis, but not all siblings should be placed together. My eldest have benefitted hugely from being seperated, although that brings its own challenges


carocaro Fri 21-Dec-12 13:26:05

I've not read it, but my cousins adopted child now 7 is in touch with all his siblings and half siblings and most relationships work out well. The adoptive parents all make an effort to keep in touch.

amillionyears Fri 21-Dec-12 14:57:23

With large families, it is sometimes impossible for all the siblings to be adopted together.
imo, and I am no expert, the seperation is better then the alternative?
tbh, unless you are actually a sperated sibling, it is difficult for the rest of us to comment.

Devora Fri 21-Dec-12 22:12:51

And there are also cases where siblings positively need to be separated, for their own good.

I agree with Narey: most of the time siblings do best together, but it shouldn't be a rule.

NanaNina Fri 21-Dec-12 22:58:08

I agree with Narey too. Yes ideally it would be very nice for brothers and sisters to stay together, but we are talking about very emotionally damaged children here, whose pre placement experiences will have left them with in most cases with behavioural difficulties and a lack of trust in adults. These children are very emotionally needy and it just isn't possible ime for adoptors to take on 3 or 4 members of a sibling group, as they will not be able to give them the attention they need to be able to help them to thrive in an emotional sense. It is very wearing for foster carers and adoptors and this should not be under-estimated.

Many of these children will have had several foster home moves (and i am not saying for a single minute that they have "languished" in foster care (which is an insult to foster carers) but the fact remains, that each move is likely to add to the child's anxiety, confusion and security.

Indeed I was always concerned about adoptors who were thinking of taking a sibling group of 3 or 4 because it struck me that they were being unrealistic in most cases, about their ability to meet the needs of all these needy children.

It is possible and should be encouraged for siblings to maintain indirect contact (by phone calls, letters e mails (maybe) in the technological age, photos etc. Obviously if adoptive families can maintain direct contact, so much the better, but this is very much up to the adoptors. The ground should be laid for the sibs to establish a relationship with each other when they become adults. Of course this isn't always going to be possible but that is the ideal.
Devora you say "most of the time siblings do best together" - there is no evidence as far as I know that this is the case. I'm not even sure if there is any research at all into this issue, because there are so many variables of course.

I think it is important that social workers really get to understand the child and his needs and where the bonds lie between the sib groups, so that the right combination can stay together. I would feel very uneasy about adoptors taking on more than 2 children from the same family. SO yes Narey is talking sense I think.

FamiliesShareGerms Sat 22-Dec-12 11:55:58

I think a basic principle of keeping siblings together, but reviewing on a case by case basis whether, in the long run, they would be better separated is hard to argue with.

amillionyears Sat 22-Dec-12 12:07:34

But that is not really dealing with the reality is it?
Often the families involved are large, often 4, 6, children is not unusual.

NanaNina Sat 22-Dec-12 14:31:21

I think that for people not involved with children and families/adoption whatever it does seem reasonable to think that sibs should be kept together, but as Amy says you are not being realistic. What informs your point of view?

I have tried to explain some of the issues in my above post that come from many years of working in this field. I have seen adoptors struggling so much with sib groups, or in fact even one child, that marriages have broken up. Birth children have left home as soon as they are able and I've seen many adoptors (mainly women) suffer mental health problems, because of the stress of trying to parent a very emotionally damaged child/ren. I realise that there are successful adoptions, but I think the other side of the equation is that many people (and politicians) can have no idea of the way in which children's pre placement experiences can make caring for them an uphill struggle, that can go one for many years. Of course the older the child, the higher the breakdown rate.

It is a very complex area and I think some poster are just putting their point of view, without any experience, and I suppose this makes me a little frustrated. I know there are many issues on which we can give our personal point of view, but I don't think this is one of them.

LocoParentis Sat 22-Dec-12 15:02:11

It's definately a difficult one.
I don't have the experience or the knowledge in this area so i'm sorry if this is frustrating NanaNina but i'm still going to put my oversized oar in anyway!

I think going for a blanket rule of - either siblings must be kept together or siblings must be seperated is going to cause long term damage.

I can't believe that in all cases it is best to seperate siblings anymore than i agree with the blanket approach to keeping them together we have now.

A case by case basis as families suggests would mean that the right decision for the children involved is being made in every case.

I agree NanaNina that adopting a sibling group of three or four is an incredible amount for anyone to take on. Especially as most if not all of the children we are talking about will have lots of additional needs.

Lilka Sat 22-Dec-12 18:01:34

Unfortunately with sibling groups of 4/5+, the default probably has to be splitting them up simply because it's nigh on impossible to find either foster or adoptive parents for that many, no matter if they are vey attached and have few issues

I know quite a few parents with sibling groups (mostly groups of 2) and many have done just fine, but some have not. Mine have done much better split up because the dynamics between them and their siblings were just as dysfunctional as the relationship with their original parents.

The real difficulty is correctly identifying those who need to be split up. Sometimes it can be pretty obvious quickly, the trouble is when the foster carers are coping with the siblings together but they do have obvious problems together. Getting the siblings assessed in order to work it out is hard and it costs (which shouldn't matter, but of course it does, and hugely)

NanaNina Sat 22-Dec-12 19:28:16

Agree with you Lilka - in the "good old days" we knew the children on our caseload very well and if it came to them moving, we had a very good idea of where the strongest bonds were between the sibs. One of my first cases was a famiy of 5 - the 15 yr old was placed with the family of his friend, the 6 & 7 year old together, on basis of permanent fostering, and the newborn was adopted. It did leave a 10 year old boy who I placed for permanent fostering and I got it very wrong. He was the only one out of the family of 5 who didn't do well.

It seems now though that sws time is taken up sitting in front of a computer (around 70% of their time I gather) tick boxing to "cover backs." I have a close friend who is a play therapist and she is always being commissioned by LAs to assess sibs, and we often wonder why sws can't do this themselves like we always did, even if we didn't always get it right - and you need the wisdom of solomon sometimes.

Locoparentis of course I don't think there should be a blanket approach, to split or not to split - if only it were that simple. And of course each case has to be considered separately.

FamiliesShareGerms Sun 23-Dec-12 06:39:41

I think there are too many variables with sibling groups to have any kind of blanket rule. Eg full / half / non-biological siblings; whether they have ever lived together before; what their experiences have been, and what their emotional and physical needs are; their ages etc etc.

I know of four (half) siblings who were adopted together, despite on paper it looking unlikely (not all biologically related; had never lived together; ages ranged from 2 to 9...) and it has worked out very well. Of course it's impossible to say whether the problems that one of them in particular has would not have arisen if he had been placed on his own: maybe, maybe not, and what would he have lost by being singled out for separate treatment and the loss of his siblings?

I know of one boy who could never have been placed with any of his (much older) siblings: he needs one on one - and sometimes two on one - attention at the moment, and having another child to manage at the same time would have been disastrous for all concerned.

My DD has an older half sibling, whose plan is for long term foster care, while she has been adopted. Their different circumstances mean I agree that this was the right decision in their case, not because of any parenting challenges, but to give both the right outcome in a very messy situation.

Which is why I say that it has to be a case by case decision, but I favour a starting point of keeping siblings together (in the same way that the first consideration has to be to keep children with their parents or other family members). I don't think any child who has had a pretty crap early life deserves to be told in later life that the presumption was that they should be separated from their siblings (with whom they may have formed an incredibly close relationship) for their own good.

LoopsInHoops Sun 23-Dec-12 06:48:14

Sorry to be pedantic and to not contribute to the substantive discussion, but please stop using the word 'damaged'. It has awful, long-reaching connotations that make people with difficult childhoods feel even more different from the rest of society.

MERLYPUSS Sun 23-Dec-12 07:56:33

My friend adopted a 5 1/2 yr old girl after fostering for some time. How lovely I thought after being placed into an ideal family, financially secure, in lovely area of good schools and older s/sisters. Great. When I learnt that she was being separated from her older brother I thought it was incredibly sad. Only once adoptive mum explained the circumstances for the split (girl has been carer for brother for as long as she could remember, brother had shown inappropriate behaviour to her) I realised this was the best choice. She is thriving at her new home now.
I'm glad my friend showed me both sides of the story.

Devora Sun 23-Dec-12 09:15:31

NanaNina, I'm sorry you're feeling frustrated, but I did find your post rude. How do you know what experience we all have? Do you really think your years' experience means you are the final voice on these issues?

Sorry to be so narky, but this area is largely populated by posters who live these issues day in day out, and who frankly sometimes need a little respite from professionals telling them what they should think.

clangermum Sat 29-Dec-12 21:58:32

More consideration before placing siblings (or not), a closer look at their individual needs - all good things it seems to me.

However, what about those of us parenting the sibling groups we adopted years ago, dealing with trauma bonds day in day out?

I really think there should be more support for us and will be e-mailing Martin Narey to ask what he proposes. I can get all the support I need on understanding attachment issues and early trauma, but not really on how to deal with it when you have more than one and they are locked in this negative loop so that all the interventions you train in have much less chance of working.

If things really are changing in the adoption world, now is probably the best time to speak up.

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