Contact with siblings and extended family members

For some children, contact with their siblings or members of the extended family can be as, if not more, important than contact with their parents. It is therefore important to make sure that these contacts do not get sidelined by the need to establish contact between the child and their parents.

Evidence suggests that membership of a sibling group is a unique part of the identity of a child or young person and can promote a sense of belonging and promote positive self-esteem and emotional wellbeing. Good management of sibling placement and contact is important to encourage and nurture healthy relationships, and can also help children and young people manage relationships they may find difficult.

SCIE, 2012

Contact with siblings

As with contact with parents, there is a presumption that contact should take place between siblings and this is more important if they are in different placements.

In many cases this can be less formalised than contact with parents, and often it is agreed that carers can sort out the arrangements between themselves on the proviso that the social worker is aware of the arrangements and kept informed of the quality and number of contacts per month. Contact can also be via telephone, text messaging, etc. and it would be expected that the carers would generally promote such contact as long as it continues to be in the children's best interests.

These arrangements must be regularly reviewed to ensure that contact is happening as it should and what the quality of the contact is.

Reviews should consider:

    • The views of all the children involved (both verbal and through their observed behaviour)
    • The views of the carers and parents if appllicable
    • Observations from contact
    • The views of those involved in supervising the contact
    • What are the longer term plans - e.g. are the siblings only separated temporarily until a placement is found where they can be together?

If contact is going well should it be increased with perhaps overnight stays, or alternatively if contact is not going well are there merits to it continuing?

Contact with extended family

Although there is not the same presumption for contact with extended family members as with parents and siblings, some relationships may be more important to the child than those with parents and siblings. With many children coming from large families there is a need to understand who is important (for example using an ecomap).

If suitable then these relationships can help to maintain placements. Extended family members may also come forward to provide alternatives to care for the child.