New York State Statute & Regulation on Sibling Placement

NYS Social Services Law: 358-a. Dependent children in foster care.

(11) Siblings, placement and visitation.

(a) In reviewing any petition brought under this section, the court shall inquire if the social services official has arranged for the placement of the child who is the subject of the petition with any minor siblings or half-siblings who are placed in care or, if such children have not been placed together, whether such official has arranged for regular visitation and other forms of regular communication between such child and such siblings.
(b) If the court determines that the subject child has not been placed with his or her minor siblings or half-siblings who are in care, or that regular visitation and other forms of regular communication between the subject child and his or her minor siblings or half-siblings has not been provided or arranged for, the court may direct such official to provide or arrange for such placement or regular visitation and communication where the court finds that such placement or visitation and communication is in the child`s best interests. Placement or regular visitation and communication with siblings or half-siblings shall be presumptively in the child`s best interests unless such placement or visitation and communication would be contrary to the child`s health, safety or welfare, or the lack of geographic proximity precludes or prevents visitation.

NYS Social Services Law: 384-a. Transfer of care and custody of children.

1-a. Prior to accepting a transfer of care and custody, a local social services official shall conduct an immediate investigation to

(a) locate relatives of the child and to determine whether the child may appropriately be placed with a suitable person related to the child and whether such relative seeks approval as a foster parent pursuant to this chapter for the purposes of providing care for such child, or wishes to provide care and custody for the child until the parent or other person responsible for the care of the child is able to resume custody; and

(b) identify minor siblings or half-siblings of the child and to determine whether such siblings or half-siblings have been or are being transferred to the care and custody of such official. Such official shall provide or arrange for the provision of care so as to permit the child and his or her minor siblings or half-siblings to be placed together unless, in the judgement of such official, such placement would be contrary to the best interests of the children; whereupon, such official shall provide or arrange for regular visitation and other forms of regular communication between such children unless, in the judgement of such official, such visitation and communication would be contrary to the best interests of such children. Placement or regular visitation and communication with siblings or half-siblings shall be presumptively in the child`s best interests unless such placement or visitation and communication would be contrary to the child`s health, safety or welfare, or the lack of geographic proximity precludes or prevents visitation.

NYS Title 18 Code, Rules and Regulations regulations effective July 26, 1988:

431.10 Placement in foster family care of children who are siblings.

(a) Foster children who are siblings or half-siblings must not be unnecessarily separated. The local social services district is responsible for ensuring that diligent efforts are made to secure a foster family boarding home which is willing and able to accept the placement of the siblings together, unless placement together is determined to be detrimental to the best interests of the siblings. Such efforts must be documented in the case record in accordance with section 428.6(b)(6) of this Title.

(b) A social services district may make a decision that minor siblings or half-siblings should be separated only if placement together is determined to be contrary to the health, safety, or welfare of one or more of the children after consultation with, or an evaluation by, other professional staff, such as a licensed psychologist, psychiatrist, other physician, or certified social worker. Factors to be considered in making a determination of whether siblings or half-siblings should be placed together must include, but are not limited to:

(1) the age differentiation of the siblings;
(2) the health and developmental differences among the siblings;
(3) the emotional relationship of the siblings to each other;
(4) the individual services needs;
(5) the attachment of the individual siblings to separate families/locations; and
(6) the continuity of environment standards pursuant to section 430.11(c) of this Title.

The factors used by social services districts to determine that siblings or half-siblings should be placed together must be documented in accordance with section 428.6 of this Title.

(c) If minor siblings or half-siblings are placed apart in foster family boarding homes and/or agency operated boarding homes on an emergency basis, they must be reunited within 30 days unless the social services commissioner or a designated representative determines it is contrary to the best interests of one or more of the siblings to be placed together, after a careful assessment in accordance with subdivision (b) of this section.

(d) Foster parents must be informed if any child placed with them has siblings or half-siblings, and if so, the location of the siblings or half-siblings.

(e) Authorized agencies are responsible for ensuring that diligent efforts are made to facilitate regular biweekly visitation or communication between minor siblings or half-siblings who have been placed apart, unless such contact could be contrary to the health, safety, or welfare of one or more of the children, or unless lack of geographic proximity precludes visitation.

421.2 Principles of adoption services.
(e) Minor siblings of half-siblings who are free for adoption must be placed together in a prospective adoptive family home unless the social services district determines that such placement would be detrimental to the best interests of one or more of the children. Such a determination can be made only after a careful assessment in accordance with section 421.18

(d) of this Part establishes that such placement would be contrary to the health, safety or welfare of one or more of the children. The placement decision must be fully documented in the case record.

421.8 Services to children. Authorized agencies shall:
(g) provide or arrange for all services necessary to ensure that siblings and/or half-siblings are placed together, unless contraindicated, in accordance with sections 421.2(e) and 421.18(d) of this Part.

421.18 Special provisions for adoptive placement. Each authorized agency shall:
(b)

(1) At the time prospective adoptive parents indicate a desire to adopt a particular child, inform such parents if the child has minor siblings or half-siblings, and, if so, whether the minor siblings are free for adoption. Such parents must be asked if they would also be willing to adopt the child’s minor siblings or half-siblings who are free for adoption.
(2) Discuss with the adoptive parents their willingness to facilitate contact between the adopted child and any siblings or half-siblings of such child, and inform the adoptive parents of the availability of services, if any, to assist in establishing and maintaining sibling contact.

(d) Make placement decisions on the basis of the best interests of the child, including, but not limited to:
(3) the requirement of authorized agencies to place minor siblings or half-siblings together in accordance with section 421.2(e) of this Part, unless the social services district has determined such placement to be detrimental to the best interests of one or more of the child(ren). Such a determination must establish that such placement would be contrary to the health, safety or welfare of one or more of the children after consultation with, or an evaluation by, other professional staff, such as a licensed psychologist, psychiatrist, other physician, or certified social worker. Factors to be considered in making a determination of whether siblings or half-siblings should be placed together must include, but are not limited to:

(i) the age differentiation of the siblings;
(ii) the health and developmental differences among the siblings;
(iii) the emotional relationship of the siblings to each other;
(iv) the individual services needs;
(v) the attachment of the individual siblings to separate families/locations.

The factors used by social services districts to determine that siblings or half-siblings are to be placed separately must be documented in the uniform case record in accordance with section 428.6 of this Title.

430.11 Appropriateness of placement.
(c) Continuity in the child’s environment.
(2) Documentation. The uniform case record, as described in Part 428 of this Title shall:
(vi) if the setting is a foster family home or agency-operated boarding home, document in the first uniform case record form required after the placement of the child in the current setting that a determination has been made of the appropriateness of placing the child with his or her siblings or half-siblings in accordance with the provisions of section 431.10 of this Part.

See Westlaw.com for a complete online version of NYS Title 18 Social Services Regulations

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