#1: Support for sibling connections after separation
The Imprint is highlighting each of the policy recommendations made this summer by the participants of the Foster Youth Internship Program, a group of 11 former foster youths who have completed congressional internships.
The program is overseen each summer by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute. Each of the participants crafted a policy recommendation during their time in Washington, D.C.
Today we highlight the recommendation of Alan Abutin, a recent graduate of Central Connecticut State University.
Congress should establish best practices in keeping siblings connected, permitting existing federal child welfare funds under Title IV-B to support those connections, and adopting California’s more stringent requirements around assessing the need for post-adoption contact agreements for siblings.
The Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act, which became law in 2008, improved federal policy by requiring states to make reasonable efforts at keeping siblings together when they are removed into foster care. But this does little to help the siblings who will still be separated by the system to maintain vital relationships in their lives.
In Their Own Words
“To this day, I only see my half-brother on spontaneous, rare occasions; moments where he’s walked into the (retail store) Finish Line where I was working, when I went to the barbershop and found him sitting in my barber’s chair, or even bumping into him at a carnival.
… While I am very blessed to have adoptive parents that cherished me and provided the resources I needed to succeed, there is an enormous guilt I feel for having opportunities that my siblings unfortunately did not have.”
The Imprint’s Take
First, Abutin’s personal reflection is about all one would need to grasp the need for attention to this issue. A young man thriving in an adoption, desperate for a meaningful connection to his family, who was offered “no avenues” to see his five brothers and sisters. To the extent that Congress and the White House can improve the odds of that situation not happening, they should get on it.
Two of Abutin’s recommendations for how those two bodies can help are simple: study what is already going on around the country that helps connect siblings, and copy California’s policy of putting youth and their interests more in the driver’s seat when it comes to sibling contact.
As for the recommendation that Title IV-B is authorized to “pay for preservative and restorative sibling connection activities,” we wonder whether it’s even necessary? Subpart 1 of IV-B has five general purposes, one of which is to “promote the safety, permanence and well-being of children in foster care and adoptive families.” It’s hard to imagine supportive sibling connections would not count under that.