brothers and sisters
When children enter the child welfare system they are often separated from brothers and sisters. The standard offer for sibling visitation in King County child welfare cases is twice a month, ie a sibling group can go from living together since birth to seeing each other twice a month, maybe four hours total. Despite intentions and court orders, it is not uncommon for several weeks, even months to pass between sibling visits for some children in foster care. LCYC has spent considerable energy advocating for increased sibling visitation and sibling placements in and out of court. Below are some stories of sibling success.
lcyc joins mid-stream: siblings are reunited after starting in multiple foster homes
LCYC was assigned to represent a child soon after he turned twelve and years after he entered foster care. When we started working with him, the child and his four siblings were split among five different foster placements. Following negotiations, exploration of services, conversations with therapists, requests for and participation in meetings, and motions in court, all of the siblings now live together again.
LCYC was assigned to represent a thirteen-year-old child. When we started working with her, the child and her six siblings were placed in three different foster homes, striving to rejoin under one roof with a relative. The older siblings were also concerned that the younger children were losing their language and culture. Despite efforts to negotiate, the other parties remained opposed to placement of all children with the relatives. Eventually, the court determined that it was in the best interests of the children to reunite them all in their relative's care. LCYC filed a petition for guardianship, which was granted, case dismissed.
lcyc starts on day one: siblings remain together and successful reunification with mom closes case
LCYC represented a twelve-year-old child at a seventy-two hour hearing, the initial hearing during which the court decides whether a child will be removed from his home. The contested issue was placement. The fathers were not involved and the mother was in custody; the five children wanted to remain in their family home with their sister, a young adult as the caregiver. The Department proposed foster care for the eldest three children (most likely in three different placements) and relative care with an elder brother for the youngest two children. The children’s attorneys reviewed discovery, cross examined and presented witnesses and argued the case to the court. The court placed all of the children in the care of their preferred sibling. The placement was supported by in-home services and the children remained in their sister's care until they were returned to their mother. Reunification was successful and the case dismissed.
Without the advocacy of experienced legal counsel for these children it is likely that they would have been divided into four different homes, spread throughout the county and possibly the state. They would have seen drastic disruption in their familial relationships, in their community, in church, in school and in services. It is unknown what different roads these youth may have traveled had they not stayed together as a family unit, or if they would have been in a position to reunify with their mother where they are today.