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‘It's complicated.’ Exploring the meaning of sibling relationships of youth in foster care

Child & Family Social Work

Published online on


Youth in foster care may be separated from their sibling(s) for a myriad of reasons. Although empirical attention to sibling relationships has grown, an examination of what sibling(s) mean to children currently in foster care has not occurred. This study used open‐ended survey responses of campers who attended Camp To Belong, a summer camp that reunites children who are separated from their sibling because of their placement in foster care. Six different member camps across the United States of America administered camper surveys. Thematic analysis was used to examine 178 responses from campers. Five major themes were identified of what siblings mean to youth in foster care: bond, dependable, fulfillment, despair and impact of separation. Youth shared the positive and protective influence their sibling(s) have in their life as well as the challenges that are associated with being separated from their sibling while in foster care. Implications of the results of the study are provided for clinicians, foster parents, researchers and sibling policy.