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Grassley, Kaine Introduce Bill to Improve Sibling Connections in Child Welfare System

WASHINGTON – Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia today introduced legislation to improve sibling connections in the child welfare system. 

“Child welfare experts tell you and common sense tells you children benefit when they’re kept together and have strong relationships,” Grassley said.  “Our bill removes barriers to federal law that prevent families of siblings from knowing when a child is placed in foster care or siblings from losing ties when parental rights are terminated.  This will help maintain sibling relationships and in turn help the kids.” 

“Ensuring that children in the child welfare system remain connected to their siblings provides them with continuity and support,” said Kaine.  “My wife Anne is a longtime advocate for foster children and during my term as Governor we successfully strengthened permanent family connections for older children in foster care through the ‘For Keeps’ initiative and increased funding to recruit more foster and adoptive parents. Today I’m proud to introduce the Sibling Connections Act that will keep brothers and sisters together and result in fewer emotional and behavioral problems down the line."

Grassley and Kaine said the Grassley-authored Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 made great strides to improve child welfare but several obstacles impede sibling relationships.  The Sibling Connections Act introduced today follows the example of at least five states, including Iowa, that have passed legislation or regulation that recognizes the parents of siblings as “relatives” for foster care placement.   That means the parents of a child’s siblings are notified when the child enters foster care, allowing the adult guardians to try to maintain the sibling relationships.  

Also, the Grassley-Kaine bill would correct the current situation in which siblings lose their status as siblings when their parents’ rights are terminated.  The loss of sibling status undermines the requirement of the Fostering Connections law that siblings be placed together whenever possible. 

Grassley said he is inspired in this effort by parents including Robert and Sharon White of Ames.  The Whites are long-time advocates for adoption and quality foster care, including keeping siblings together. The Whites have adopted several children and have recently decided to become foster parents.  They also have worked with Iowa state legislators to pass legislation making it easier for children in foster care to be adopted with their siblings. 

Grassley is a long-time advocate for adoption and improving foster care, especially the challenges facing those who age out of the system.  He is the co-founder and co-chair of the bipartisan Senate Caucus on Foster Youth.  He has secured several key legislative improvements to promote adoption.  More information is available here.

More information on the value of sibling relationships is available here.