Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content

Skip Navigation LinksProcedure

3.4.20 Placement of siblings

Last Modified: 24-Mar-2022 Review Date: 01-Apr-2017

 ‭(Hidden)‬ Legislation

Overview

The Department must prioritise and place siblings in the same care arrangement, unless it is not in the children's best interests or possible to do so.

Where children are unable to be placed with their siblings, appropriate planning must occur to ensure connections between siblings are maintained. 

Note: CEO refers to the Chief Executive Officer of the Department of Communities (the Department).

Rules

 
Process Maps

Not applicable

Information and Instructions

  • Children considered to be a risk to others
  • Care arrangement considerations
  • Definition of siblings
  • Assessing sibling relationships
  • Sibling contact needs
  • Disruption of sibling care arrangements
  • Children considered to be a risk to others

    If a child is deemed to pose a risk to others, has seriously hurt another child in their care arrangement, or displays behaviours that indicate they are likely to pose a risk to others, such as extreme violence and violent or abusive harmful sexual behaviours, you must do the following: 

    • Recognise the child posing a risk to others is also in need of support and respond to the child in a trauma-informed manner. It is important to recognise and acknowledge that the child is likely to be displaying trauma-related behaviours.
    • Ensure the immediate safety of all children involved and in the care arrangement. This may include seeking medical advice and or police involvement.
    • Contact the district managing the child who has been harmed in the care arrangement or who is believed to be at risk in the care arrangement. This district may want to be involved in safety planning.
    • The child who may pose a risk to others must be invited to participate in the safety planning process. The carers/family will also need to be invited to participate. They must all be provided with details of the safety plan once it is made and kept up to date if any changes are made.
    • A new care arrangement must be organised if the risk is considered too great and is unable to be managed through safety planning.
    • A new care arrangement must be organised where a child is in a residential care home or setting with other children (including siblings), and you become aware they have reporting conditions under the Community Protection Offender Reporting Act 2004.  
    • Create an alert on Assist if the child who poses a risk to others is to remain in the care arrangement with a safety plan in place. This alert must be removed if the child moves or if they are no longer deemed to be a risk to others.
    You or another case worker must speak to the child who has been harmed/who is at risk in the care arrangement. It is important that they have the opportunity to raise any safety concerns, that their opinions and wishes are considered that they are offered and provided appropriate therapeutic supports.

     

    Top

    Care arrangement considerations

    You must make every reasonable effort to place siblings in the same care arrangement unless:

    • it is not in the best interest of any of the siblings, or
    • there is no suitable care arrangement available.

    Where it is necessary to place siblings apart, you must make reasonable efforts to:

    • locate as many siblings in the same care arrangement as possible
    • locate siblings in the same geographical areas, and
    • initiate, encourage and support contact between siblings, unless this is not in the best interests of any of the siblings.

    The following factors should be considered when you are making decisions about care arrangement options for siblings:

    • Where possible and appropriate, how many siblings can be placed together?
    • What resources will be required by the foster carer to support a large sibling group?
    • If siblings cannot be placed together, can they be placed in the same geographical area and, if they are school age, attend the same school?  
    • If siblings are not placed together, how will regular contact occur (if appropriate)?

    Siblings may be placed separately for the following reasons:

    • It may be in the best interests of one or more of the children to be placed apart – for example, if there is a suggestion that one sibling may harm another.
    • A child has been assessed as requiring a separate care arrangement to address serious health, behavioural or emotional needs (trauma and loss).
    • It is in the best interests of a child to be placed with a family member who can provide a safe and stable home, but is not able to care for another child. 
    • A child has significant attachment to the current carer but the carer is unable to care for another child.

     

    If a child is deemed to pose a risk to others, has seriously hurt another child in their care arrangement, or displays behaviours indicating they are likely to pose a risk to others, such as extreme violence and harmful sexualised behaviours, you must do the following: 

    • Recognise the child posing a risk to others is also in need of support and respond to the child in a trauma-informed manner. It is important to recognise and acknowledge that the child is likely to be displaying trauma-related behaviours.
    • Ensure the immediate safety of all children involved and in the care arrangement. This may include seeking medical advice and or police involvement.
    • Contact the district managing the child who has been harmed in the care arrangement or who is believed to be at risk in the care arrangement. This district may want to be involved in safety planning.
    • The child who may pose a risk to others must be invited to participate in the safety planning process. The carers/family will also need to be invited to participate. They must all be provided with details of the safety plan once it is made and kept up to date if any changes are made.
    • Consider if the current care arrangement can be maintained in a manner that ensures the safety of all children present.
    • Create an alert on ASSIST if the child who poses a risk to others is to remain in the care arrangement with a safety plan in place. This alert must be removed if the child moves or if they are no longer deemed to be a risk to others.
    • Ensure you or another case manager has spoken with the child who has been harmed/who is at risk in the care arrangement. It is important that they have had the opportunity to raise any safety concerns and that their opinions and wishes are considered.

     

    When organising a care arrangement for Aboriginal children, siblings must be placed in accordance with the Child Placement Principle.  For more information, see Chapter 3.4 – Child Placement Principle

    You must consult with an Aboriginal practice leader (or relevant senior Aboriginal officer) when making a decision to place Aboriginal siblings in out-of-home care (s.81 of the Act).

    All consultations must be recorded (refer to the Assist User Guides – Case Plan – Case Plan Consultation in related resources).

     

     All decisions for the care arrangements and/or siblings must be regularly reviewed as part of the case and care plan process and Quarterly Care Report to ensure the short and long-term needs of each child is supported.

    Top

    Definition of siblings

    Siblings are children who share at least one birth parent and/or children who live or have lived for a significant period with other children in a family group. There are circumstances where children have significant attachments to other children within their extended family or network whom they view as siblings.

    The term sibling could mean any of the following: full sibling, half sibling, step-sibling, adopted sibling, foster sibling and cousins.

    Sibling groups can include any combination of the above and may be different for each child within the sibling group.

    Top

    Assessing sibling relationships

    When deciding about the care arrangements of siblings, you should assess each child's needs including their relationship with and attachment to their sibling. You should speak to the child, wherever possible, to understand their perspective in order to be able to grasp the importance of maintaining the sibling connections.

    Aspects to consider include:

    • the children's positions in the family (a genogram may be helpful)
    • gender
    • cultural and family expectations for each child
    • emotional age at which each child is functioning
    • extent to which the children have a shared history and family experience, and 
    • the role each child is perceived to have played (if any) in the sibling group before coming into the CEO's care.

    Helpful background information includes:

    • legal status of each child
    • grounds under which they entered the CEO's care
    • understanding of the child's early life experience, and 
    • history of the child's care arrangements outside the care system and nature of their relationship with siblings e.g. if one child provided primary care to a younger sibling.

    If separate care arrangements must be made for sibling groups, this assessment will help make decisions about which sibling relationships are most essential to the wellbeing of specific children.

    You should speak to children  individually (age permitting) and ask age-appropriate questions about the relationship they have with their siblings and to consider their views and wishes regarding their care arrangement.

    Assessments should involve consultation with the senior practice development officer, team leader, senior child protection worker placement services, clinical psychologist and/or Aboriginal practice leader as required. It may be necessary to convene a special meeting to consider and make decisions about separating, uniting or re-uniting siblings.

    Top

    Sibling contact needs

    ​When siblings cannot be placed together, prioritising regular contact is critical to maintaining their relationships and minimising the trauma of separation where this is appropriate. This is particularly important where siblings have separate care arrangements and are case managed by different districts.

    You should discuss and develop contact arrangements through case planning meetings and take into consideration the views of the siblings, parents, foster carers, and any other significant people. Other considerations include, but are not limited to, the age and routines of the children, the strength of the children's relationships before entering the CEO's care, and the goal of the Stability and Connection Plan (reunification or long term out-of-home care).

    Siblings of different ages may have different contact needs, whether placed together or separately. These needs are likely to change throughout the child's period in the CEO's care and will need to be reviewed regularly.

    Siblings in separate care arrangements (or siblings who remain with family) should have opportunities to spend quality time together to maintain or rebuild a sense of belonging. Where some siblings reside in family care arrangements, you should allow informal arrangements for contact to be made between siblings where it is safe and appropriate. Where siblings are placed a significant distance apart, different options of contact need to be explored to promote the relationship unless it is unsafe.  For example, maintaining regular contact through facetime, phone calls and text messages, emails and letters.

    By allowing unsupervised or unmonitored sibling contact by phone, social media or email the carer plays an important role in promoting the child's sibling relationships.


    Top

    Disruption of sibling care arrangements

    During the placement of a sibling group, the carer may not be able to continue to provide a care arrangement for all the children.

    You must consider:

    • whether the focus of difficulties will switch to another child if one or more is removed
    • the original decision made to place the siblings together or separately
    • what supports may be required in the care arrangement, and
    • if the child can be reunified with their siblings if the issues are able to be addressed.
    Top