Siblings In Foster Care

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In the past two decades, researchers in the social sciences have begun to examine the importance of sibling support and connectedness across the lifespan. Siblings may provide an important source of social support, friendship and instrumental support to one another from childhood to later life. The meaning of sibling connections for foster children, whose connection to parents and adult caregivers has been disrupted, is an important area meriting study. Unfortunately, until very recently, there has been a dearth of well-designed research examining the important developmental issues involving siblings placed in out of home care. Secondary data analysis on a subsample drawn from the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being (NSCAW), Waves 1-5, was conducted to examine the life circumstances and developmental trajectories of foster children. Three comparison groups were drawn based on Wave 1 placement status, consisting of foster children partially separated from siblings (n =67, representing a population of 19,077), separated from all siblings (n = 116, representing a population of 32,109) and placed together with all siblings (n = 68, representing a population of 13,303). Increasing child age, child race and foster parent employment outside the home were significantly associated with sibling separation at Wave 1. Child characteristics, including child behavior at Wave 1 were not significantly associated with sibling separation status. Children did not differ by group membership with regard to placement in kinship care, or placement disruption. Children separated from siblings spent significantly longer in out of home placement than children placed with at least one sibling. Children separated from all siblings were significantly more likely to have experienced emotional abuse as their most serious form of maltreatment. Children separated from all siblings had significantly less contact with parents than other children. More than fifty percent of children separated from all siblings reported having had no visitation with either mother or father at the time of the Wave 1 interview.

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foster care; child welfare; siblings


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Union Local


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Eckenrode, John Joseph

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Avery, Rosemary Jane
Wethington, Elaine

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Human Development and Family Studies

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Ph. D., Human Development and Family Studies

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Doctor of Philosophy

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Government Document




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dissertation or thesis

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