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Sibling contact: messages from research re mutuality of parentage

Date:3 APR 2022

Elizabeth Isaacs QC, St Ives Chambers

This article reviews recent research from the Nuffield Foundation Siblings, contact and the law: an overlooked relationship? (2018) - the first in England and Wales to highlight the impact on practice of underlying professional assumptions and the shifting legal and procedural framework. The significance attached to sibling relationships in care and adoption proceedings can routinely be outweighed by other factors. This puts siblings at risk of losing touch, despite strong professional recognition of the importance of sibling relationships. There is a lack of clarity in terminology, and not all people share the same agreement about what constitutes ‘siblinghood’. As relationships between adults and household arrangements have become more fluid, sociological and political, focus has turned from questions of family structure to questions of relationship qualities. There is also a lack of clarity and consistency about the process of sibling assessments. Messages from the research include the fact that the age of children tends to carry greatest weight in decision-making, contact arrangements are heavily determined by placement type, insufficient weight is placed on the interests of older siblings. The research also considered the lack of use and understanding about sibling contact orders and concludes that ‘closed’ adoption continues to be the norm. 


The full article will be published in the April issue of Family Law

 

 

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