Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

The Legal Position of Separated Siblings in Public Care - Do Legal Principle and Practice Concord?

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Who this event is for

  • Everyone


Dining Room, Headington Hill Hall, Headington Campus, Headington Hill site


Family relationships beyond marriage and parenthood are often crucial to family life and the sibling relationship offers an illustration of a significant, yet legally neglected, family tie in English law. However, the courts have held that, although it is desirable that siblings are brought up together, this factor is not of such importance to override other factors in the welfare balancing exercise, particularly where there is a large age gap between siblings. Although sibling relationships are recognised as important when other family relationships change, or end, siblings who have lived together are sometimes separated by the court order, particularly when they are adopted or fostered after being taken into care. In the first part, this paper examines the legal position of siblings in care, focussing particularly on their position on adoption and in foster care. In the second part, the paper proceeds to analyse the findings of the primary research conducted by Shaftesbury’s Siblings United Programme. In conclusion, the paper argues that there is some divergence between the findings of this research, the principles laid down in case law and the implementation of the law in regard to the position of siblings in this jurisdiction. Drawing on this research and on further research done in this country and Australia, this paper concludes that these children require more careful accommodation in the fostering and adoption system and that there should be greater openness to facilitate contact between siblings in these situations.

Presenters: Dr Brigitte Clark (School of Law, Oxford Brookes University) and Dr Mariya Ali (Honorary Knowledge Exchange Associate, Oxford Brookes University and Shaftesbury’s Siblings United).