Children in foster care generally prefer to be placed with their siblings, and if they are unable to, they request frequent visits and communication with their siblings, unless their family relationships were previously abusive. Many foster children experience a period of grief, worry and self-doubt after being separated from their siblings and parents, and studies show that many youth with siblings mention their worries regarding their brothers and/or sisters after being separated from them. Especially when children leave abusive biological families, they feel guilty because they feel as if they have escaped the abuse and abandoned their siblings, leaving them to bear the maltreatment. Older children who are separated from their younger siblings also feel that they’ve lost a caregiving role that they had previously possessed before separation. This caregiving role determines children’s self- identity, and provides them with self-esteem and a feeling of pride and responsibility.SIBLINGS PLACED TOGETHER IN OUT-OF-HOME CARE HAVE BETTER LIVES
Like siblings who are not in out of home care, brothers and sisters in foster care work together as confidants and companions. Studies show that when siblings in foster care are placed together, they display more positive, prosocial and cooperative behavior towards their peers and have a more positive outlook on life than children who are separated from their siblings. This is especially true for siblings who share a close bond and then are separated, experiencing much trauma and grief. Siblings placed together in foster and other substitute homes also have fewer emotional and behavioral problems, manage conflicts better at an early age, and perform better at school. Overall, sibling relationships foster a sense of stability and durability to children in out of home care, and most importantly, they maintain biological connections among siblings. Interviewed children say that they feel glad to have someone who can identify with them and evaluate their personality.NEGATIVE ASPECTS OF SIBLING RELATIONSHIPS IN FOSTER CARE
As positive sibling relationships and close bonds contribute to positive growth of the siblings, negative sibling interaction will also negatively affect social behavior and emotional problems. Additionally, not all sibling relationships are affectionate and nurturing, and many times siblings can have major conflicts with each other. The trauma that siblings can cause each other is more considerable than the benefit that sibling contact can give to them. A traumatic childhood filled with conflict and/or mistreatment can make siblings siblings develop unhealthy, rivalrous or abusive relationships with each other. Children’s memories of past abuse from their parents or caregivers can manifest themselves in sibling contact, causing siblings further unrest and trauma in substitute (out-of-home) care. In these cases, it is better to place siblings with separate families, or provide them with psychological or family counseling. However, in most cases sibling contact while in foster care is beneficial to the children’s welfare and growth.