Current Florida law puts placement of children in a residential group home as the last option.
This makes it difficult to keep brothers and sisters in foster care together.2013 sibling groups, or 36% of all foster kids are not placed together, and 85% of children in foster care are part of a sibling group and fully half are not placed together. This means that at least 30% will only see their siblings once a month, or not at all.
Youth who are separated from their brothers and sisters in foster care have described the experience as an “extra punishment, a separate loss, and another pain that is not needed.”
Positive sibling relationships have been associated with higher self-esteem and a decreased likelihood of internalizing problems leading to depression, anxiety, withdrawal and somatic complaints.
Although Florida law also dictates that the case manager “shall prefer to keep siblings together if at all possible,” the lack of specificity in the language allows for sibling connections to be overlooked. After sometimes years of neglect and abuse, it makes sense for siblings to be together to alleviate some of the fear, loss, confusion and anxiety of being separated from their parents.
Quality residential group care not only allows for siblings to stay together in foster care, but provides 24 hour parenting with consistent supervision, monitoring of education, recreational and work activities. Florida law should require case managers to place children in a residential group living facility as a top priority if it will keep siblings together.