So, you’re in the final stages of care proceedings and it has been agreed that a sibling attachment assessment is required. As the Social Worker (or Independent Social Worker), you are the best placed professional to complete this assessment. However, where do you start and what do you need to know?
The sibling attachment assessment is a logical and specific assessment which focuses on sibling group attachment. Below I have compiled some steps (or tips) that will make it clearer for you when completing this assessment.
The following legislation is fundamental to the assessment process and should be taken into account (and included) when analysing your findings.
- The Children Act 1989 s23(7)(b) places a duty on local authorities to accommodate a child together with his/her siblings so far as is ‘reasonably practical and consistent with his welfare’.
- The Adoption and Children Act 2002 s1(4) requires the court to consider “the likely effect on the child (throughout his life) of having ceased to be a member of the original family and become an adopted person” and “the relationship which the child has with relatives (…) including the likelihood of any such relationship continuing and the value to the child of its doing so”. The Act also requires the court to consider contact arrangements, and it allows the child and any relative to apply for contact (s26).
- Article 8 of the Human Rights Act 1998 covers the right to private and family life and prohibits interference with this. Provided that family life is established, each member of the family including siblings has their own right to respect for family life. Exceptions can be made to protect ‘health and morals’ and the ‘rights and freedoms of others’ (e.g. child protection cases) but the actions of public authorities (including the courts and adoption agencies) must be reasonable and
- The local authority circular, Adoption – Achieving the Right Balance (LAC(98)20), states: In the exceptional case where siblings cannot be placed together with the same family, it is important for agencies to ensure that contact arrangements with other siblings are given very careful attention and plans for maintaining contact are robust.
- Social Care Institute for Excellence – The statutory guidance within the UK is that siblings should be placed together, unless this would not be in the best interests of one or more of the sibling group, or there is a good reason not to (Department for Education, 2012a). If it is deemed necessary to separate siblings, guidance in the UK suggests that the reasons why should be clearly documented and reviewed, with judgments based on an assessment of the relationships and consideration of individual circumstances (DfE, 2012a; Social Care Institute for Excellence, 2004).
Briefing on Placing Siblings Permanently – The Hadley Centre link: https://www.familyfutures.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Siblings-Together-or-Apart-Practice-Paper.compressed.pdf
Theory and Research
It is necessary that your findings are ‘backed up’ by theory and research – this is called evidence based practice and is an essential part of any Social Work Practice. It is therefore important that you ensure you have access to such information to justify your work. Make sure this is used throughout your assessment. However, be careful not to over use as this may create confusion. Use it to support your findings and information gathered. This will further support and validate your findings.
For example: What type of attachment do they have? What significant harm have they experienced and how has this impacted on each child? Are there any concerns regarding sibling abuse between the children or signs of this becoming an issue? What would be the impact of separation?
All of these questions will need to be evidenced within the assessment.
It is important to use the tools available to enable you to come to the most appropriate conclusion. BAAF ‘Sibling Together or Apart’ is an excellent document that provides guidance, theory and research and is a good starting point before the assessment process takes place.
Sibling together or apart link: https://www.familyfutures.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Siblings-Together-or-Apart-Practice-Paper.compressed.pdf
The Sibling Assessment Form is an essential element to the assessment process and must be given to each care provider for each child. It is useful to ensure these forms have been given and explained to the care provider (including foster carers, family members, schools and nurseries; if the children are seen together and parents) prior to your assessment interviews. This will allow the care provider to reflect on each answer, which can be discussed in further detail during the interview stage.
Assessing Sibling Relationship Checklist link: http://www.cwpsalem.pdx.edu/activityguide/Appendix/SiblingAssessmentTool.pdf
Keep it logical, the Welfare Checklist is a significant part of the assessment and enables the reader to develop a good understanding of each individual child. The sibling relationship checklist also needs to be a part of the assessment and a good in depth analysis of the attachments and circumstances.
It is important to observe the children’s interactions in as many different environments. This includes home, school and in the community. Setting a task or problem for the children to work out together (dependent on age) can also provide evidence of how the children interact and engage with each other. This will enable you to identify varying characteristics between the children. For example, who is the leader? Who becomes frustrated? Who is the peacekeeper? Etc.
Finally, do not become confused with the assessment you are completing. Remember, this is not an assessment to measure the strength of relationships between the children versus that of a particular carer. Therefore, keep it directed specifically towards the attachment between the children, how they interact and fundamentally, how each child would be impacted by separation and in what way.
The Author of this blog is an experienced Social Worker, Practice Educator and Independent Social Work Consultant who enjoys sharing experiences and learning new skills and knowledge. Background includes working in Child Protection, Family Court, Fostering, EDT, Adults with Learning Difficulties and the Youth Justice System.