Siblings, contact and the law: an overlooked relationship?
Routine decision making in the Family Courts can have a significant impact on children and young people’s sibling relationships. The impact is most profound in care and adoption proceedings in public law, as they can result in siblings being separated with limited or no effective provision for contact. This exploratory socio-legal research, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, is the first in England and Wales to foreground siblings. Based on an analysis of statutes, case law and interviews with practitioners, and informed by the views of young people, it highlights the impact on practice of underlying professional assumptions and the shifting legal and procedural framework. The findings speak only from this data; our approach enabled us to examine issues in depth, but we do not make claims about the sector as a whole. While eschewing the possibility of finding easy solutions to a complex issue, we hope this research will offer insights into current thinking about siblings and open up a dialogue between law and emerging research in social work and other disciplines, contributing to reflective and informed decision making where siblings are concerned.