Advice with regards to siblings

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Breadline bound
Posts: 1
Joined: Tue Feb 19, 2019 1:51 pm

Advice with regards to siblings

Post by Breadline bound » Tue Feb 19, 2019 2:58 pm

Hi All,

This is my first post so hopefully it all makes sense. My niece has 3 siblings that have been placed in care for well over a year. Their ages at the time were 8, 4 and 9 months. At the time we offered to take the 2 eldest as they were both boys and as we were past the spring chicken age felt it wasn't prudent to take the baby who was a girl.
After our IVA we were told that the younger 2 were being adopted and that we were only able to take the oldest boy who has a few medical issues. We went through the process and have had him living with us for the last 8 months which is going well. In the meantime my niece has been fighting the adoption order for in the region of 12 months. This went to court and the judge ruled that we should have been assessed for both boys at the time based on human rights I believe. The issue now is that as the younger boy has been living with his sister in placement ready for adoption since April 18 they now would have formed quite a bond. So our perception is that it wouldn't be the right thing to do to split them up. We're moving forward with this but I'm after some advice if anyone can please help.

Firstly what do we need to do to be able to see the court papers and maybe even attend the next hearing?

Finally our big issue is sibling contact and if the younger 2 get adopted can it be written in the care plan that they can have contact with their older brother as we feel this would be beneficial for all parties ?

We're trying to weigh up all the options so the 3 children at the center of this can move on and resolve this as best as it can be resolved. Thanks for all your help with this.

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Suzie, FRG Adviser
Posts: 532
Joined: Thu Jul 28, 2011 11:25 am

Re: Advice with regards to siblings

Post by Suzie, FRG Adviser » Mon Mar 11, 2019 1:55 pm

Dear Breadline bound

Welcome to the Family and Friends Carers’ discussion board and thank you for your post. My name is Suzie and I am FRG’s online adviser. I am sorry to hear about the difficulties your family is having.

You are currently caring for your 8 year old great-nephew. I think that you may be caring for him as his kinship foster carer but maybe you are applying for or have a Special Guardianship Order(SGO) ? for him.

It would be helpful if you could clarify this so that we can tailor our advice.

You mention that the child has some medical issues; these should be properly considered in any assessment of your and his support needs as they may impact on any support package that you are offered or that you would need.

Although you were willing to care for his younger brother too (but not his baby sister for the reasons you have explained) you were advised by the local authority that this would not be possible as the plan was for the younger boy and his baby sister to be adopted together. They have been in a placement together for almost a year so have bonded closely.

Is this a foster placement or have they already been placed for adoption ? This makes a difference in terms of what the local authority’s powers are and also their mother’s rights and options. From what you say, she is clearly challenging the plans for adoption and this is being considered by the court. Is this in ongoing care proceedings or a challenge against a placement order ?

You want to know about how you can see the court papers and maybe attend the court hearing.

As relatives but not parents you don’t have an automatic right to be party to the proceedings which would include seeing the court papers and attending court. However, if there are ongoing care proceedings and if you are seeking a SGO for the child you are caring for it is a very good idea to ask the court’s permission to be joined as a ‘party’ to the case – this would allow you to participate in the case. You would have to complete a court form (a C2) to ask the court’s permission. Have you checked with a solicitor (specialising in childcare law) to find out if you would be eligible for legal aid? If you are not, have you asked children’s services to pay for you to get legal advice, as they are asking you to care for your great-nephew?

There is more information about this in our advice sheets on care proceedings and Special Guardianship. You can find a copy of court forms via the court form finder .

You are rightly concerned about future contact between the child you are caring for and his siblings, recognising how important this is for all of the them as the sibling relationship is so important. It is well-recognised by research that they can be the most enduring and longest-lasting relationships for many people and that there is a strong link between children’s emotional wellbeing and sibling relationships throughout their lives. Sibling relationships and sibling contact should be considered throughout the whole time children’s services are involved and must be addressed when social workers, Independent Reviewing Officers (IROs) , Guardians and courts are making plans and court orders.

You don’t say what the current contact arrangements are for the siblings. If they are all currently in fostering arrangements they should have the same IRO whose role is crucial in reviewing contact arrangements and making sure that sibling contact commitments are being implemented. Their care plans should set this out and the views of all the key people (children, parents, carers etc.) should be sought and taken account of. If the younger children are placed for adoption then the court should have considered what contact there should be between the siblings before making the placement order.

In all court proceedings, the Guardian should properly address sibling relationships and contact in their report.

Your niece’s solicitor should be pressing for sibling contact to be prioritised and you are right to be asking for contact with his siblings to be properly thought about and arranged for the child you are caring for and, where possible, to be an order of the court.

However, adoption does end the legal relationship between a child and their birth family (including siblings). Before making an adoption order the court must consider arrangements for contact between the adopted child and their siblings after the adoption order is made and should find out what are the views of everyone involved in the adoption proceedings views. The court can make a contact order but this will depend on whether this is considered to be in the children’s best interests and what the adopters’ views are.

Do have a look at the following advice sheets all of which include information about sibling contact, in different legal situations:
contact with children in care and Open Adoption.

It is absolutely right for you and the children’s mother to raise the issue of sibling contact at every opportunity both with children’s services and the court and to emphasise the importance of this and ask that this be addressed and if not, why.

If you want to post back letting us know what court orders are currently in place and when/what is the next court hearing we may be able to add to this advice.

You might find the following recently published research by Daniel Monk and Jan Macvarish very helpful too:
Sibling, contact and the law: an overlooked relationship? (November 2018, Birkbeck University of London). It is a really useful summary of all the issues and the legal position.

With best wishes

Suzie

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