4.20 Assessing and Maintaining Sibling Relationships


​​​​​Children who enter out-of-home care (OOHC) experience trauma and loss.  When children are separated from their siblings this is an additional loss. This separation can cause loss of family connection and trauma which can be detrimental to developing self and cultural identity.  The Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS/Cabinet) should be providing services to assess and enhance the relationship between siblings.  The Cabinet should support sibling relationships by ensuring regular sibling contact, therapeutic service in coordination with care providers, etc.

When it is determined that separation is necessary after a thorough review, a detailed plan should be implemented by the Cabinet to ensure siblings remain in contact and can be reunified when possible.  

Practice Guidance


The SSW:

  1. Upon initial placement of a sibling group entering OOHC, or any subsequent placement move that would result in the siblings being separated,  consults with the FSOS and documents, in the case record, reasons for not placing siblings together; 1
  2. Completes the following when the needs of the child(ren) result in siblings remaining separated longer than forty-five (45) days:
    1. Obtains further approval from the service region administrator (SRA) or designee by using the sibling separation template and attaching supporting therapeutic documentation when applicable.   
    2. Reviews the sibling separation template at every case planning conference and updates the template if there is a placement move or significant changes in the case. 2
    3. Develops a sibling visitation plan, with input by all parties, if siblings are not to be placed together.  
    4. ​​Documents, in service recordings, any efforts to reunite siblings, who are separated.  This includes but is not limited to:
      1. ​​​Sibling therapy sessions;
      2. Assessing caregiver capacity to care for additional siblings; and
      3. Referrals and ongoing placement searches.
  3. When an additional sibling enters OOHC, the SSW assesses the possibility of placement with a birth sibling that is currently in foster care or has been previously adopted. The SSW shall explore the placement possibility with recruitment and certification (R&C) or the private child-placing (PCP) provider.  When seeking foster care placement, families caring for siblings of the child shall have priority for placement.
  4. When a relative caregiver is identified that could result in a child(ren) being separated, discussion with the relative should take place to include the possibility of placement of all siblings.  If the placement of the entire sibling group is not possible, careful consideration should be given to the children's attachment to each other, the length of time in their current placement, and the children's permanency goal. 3

 Sibling Visitation and Ongoing Contact

The SSW ensures that siblings who are separated in OOHC have regular contact as outlined below:
  1. Face-to-face visits monthly unless an exception has been approved by the SRA or designee based upon safety or therapeutic needs of the child(ren). 4
  2. In situations where children are placed two (2) or more hours away from each other, quarterly face-to-face visits are permitted.  However, sibling contact must occur monthly via alternate methods such as Zoom or FaceTime.
  3. In cases where the SRA or designee has approved no sibling visitation, the contact and sibling relationship should be assessed and re-evaluated on an ongoing basis.
  4. ​In addition to monthly visits, frequent contact such as phone calls, text messaging, FaceTime, etc. should be encouraged and supported to maintain sibling relationships and assist in reuniting the siblings if possible.


  1. Reasons for separation in time-sensitive situations may include an appropriate relative available to take custody of their own relative, exhaustion of relatives, DCBS and PCP foster homes that can accommodate the sibling group, reunification of siblings will disrupt a placement in which one of the siblings has formed a significant attachment with the caregiver, or safety issues.  
  2. Significant changes would include hospitalizations, therapeutic needs of the child(ren), custodial changes,  and identification of paternal relatives.
  3. If a relative does not meet the definition of fictive kin they can pursue foster parent approval.
  4. ​The SSW will obtain a written therapeutic recommendation and will submit it to the SRA or designee along with the exception request for the temporary suspension of sibling visits.