Beyond together or apart - Planning for, assessing and placing sibling groups

Beyond together or apart - Planning for, assessing and placing sibling groups

Shelagh Beckett


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Brothers and sisters have potentially the longest lasting and one of the closest relationships of their lives with each other – connections that have enormous capacity for shared understanding and warmth, and which are expected to last. But looked after children needing permanence – and approximately 60 per cent of looked after children have siblings – are faced with the real possibility that these connections will be weakened or even severed if they are placed separately.

Children and young people consistently tell us that their relationships with their brothers and sisters are important to them and should be respected. Understandably then, questions about placing siblings “together or apart” weigh heavily on those involved. Too often, decisions are hastily made and driven by resources rather than a consideration of the life-long impact that a potential separation, and the ensuing loss, will have. What are the factors that need to be considered when planning for, assessing and placing sibling groups? How can birth families, social workers and foster carers work collaboratively, taking account of the children’s needs and wishes, to contribute to the best plans and placements? And, if brothers and sisters cannot live together, how can they best be supported to maintain their relationships?

Who is this book for?

This book is for children’s social workers, family placement workers, social work managers and others.

N.B This book replaces the the previous guide 'Together or apart?'

What you will find in this book

This thought-provoking guide challenges the reader to place at the forefront the importance of sibling relationships and their life-long impact and to plan think beyond together or apart. Drawing on research, practice experience and feedback from adopters, the author discusses:

  • What helps and hinders children’s relationships with their siblings
  • The importance of early planning and getting it right
  • What a “sibling-friendly” service could look like
  • Listening to and involving children
  • How families can best be prepared and supported to parent sibling groups
  • How separated siblings can be helped to maintain relationships with brothers and sisters

Packed with information, the guide also includes examples of forms and sample letters that can be used so that information and observations from key sources contribute to the assessment of siblings. The guide is illustrated with case studies and the experiences of children and adopters.

For children’s social workers, family placement workers, social work managers and others, this is a “must-have” A–Z of making the best placements for brothers and sisters.

Forms in this book

This book contains a number of forms that are also available as digital files in our bookshop. To order these forms please click on the button below. Once purchased, the forms will be emailed to you as Word documents. Please note, if you have previously purchased the forms please email, quoting your original invoice number, and we will send you the new versions.


Shelagh Beckett:
Shelagh Beckett gained extensive experience as a practitioner and manager specialising in children’s services, adoption and fostering. She works independently providing consultancy to local authorities, the third sector and the media. Shelagh is regularly appointed as an expert witness and also lectures on specialist post graduate and post qualifying child care courses. She has been series consultant to many documentary programmes featuring social work, child protection, fostering and adoption – including various award-winning BBC series.