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Sibling Separation Assessments

Information for Making Wise Decisions

It is common for sibling groups to be separated in foster care. Before permanency decisions are made, it is important to assess the entire group of siblings and their relationships to each other and their caregivers. Understanding the potential risks and benefits of keeping siblings together can help achieve successful placements.

Sibling Separation Assessment Expert Deena McMahon

Deena McMahon, LICSW, MSW, is experienced in providing sibling assessments in cases involving foster care, adoption and child custody. She assesses each case from a variety of perspectives, including:

  • Each child’s history
  • Sibling bonds
  • Racial and cultural background and sense of belonging
  • Attachment to caregivers
  • Special needs of each sibling
  • Cumulative special needs of all siblings
  • Whether the siblings’ cumulative needs are too overwhelming for one family
  • Risk and resiliency features of children with the caregivers

After thoroughly assessing the situation, Ms. McMahon will provide a well-founded recommendation for permanency placement along with recommendations for ongoing contact, if applicable.

Is It Always Best to Keep Siblings Together?

Decisions about placement of siblings in foster care, adoptive homes or in child custody arrangements are rarely easy. Each case is unique. The scenarios below illustrate the complex issues that can arise.

  • Four siblings are bonded with the foster parents, but one sibling has repeatedly tried to smother the foster parents’ two-year-old. Is it better to place that child separately or find a new home that would allow all four siblings to remain together?
  • Three children were raised by the same mother with a father who is uninvolved and out of the state. When the children are placed in foster care, the biological father’s mother comes forward and requests custody of just the middle child. Do grandparents’ rights outweigh the rights of siblings to remain together?

Ms. McMahon has extensive experience providing sibling assessments in complex cases involving multiple siblings and multiple stakeholders. She is also skilled and experienced in defending her assessments in court. To learn more about this facet of her practice, please contact Deena McMahon and McMahon Counseling and Consultation Services.