Revisiting conventional wisdom: What do we know from 30 years of research on sibling placement in foster care?

Anna DiGiovanni, Sarah A. Font

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Background: Efforts to place sibling groups together in foster care have long been considered best practice and are required under federal law. Practice and policy guidance are based in part on the belief that sibling placement is in the best interests of children. In this article, we first review literature reviews on this topic to assess the extent to which prior efforts to characterize this body of research are thorough, objective, and based on research specific to the foster care population. We then assess the quality and volume of empirical evidence on the effects of sibling placement for the stability, permanency, and wellbeing of children in foster care to ascertain whether existing reviews accurately reflect the empirical evidence or extend beyond it without adequate empirical support. Methods: We conducted a scoping search of reviews of published research from the year 1990 to 2019 using Google Scholar, PsycInfo, EBSCO, and PubMed (Medline). From the search results, we extracted all review articles, quantitative studies, and qualitative studies on sibling placement in foster care. We identified 16 literature reviews on sibling placement in foster care. In addition, we identified 27 longitudinal quantitative studies measuring the association between sibling placement and child placement stability, permanency or wellbeing in foster care, and nine qualitative studies on the role of sibling placement or relationships for child wellbeing in foster care. Results: Many of the literature reviews relied on research evidence from non-foster care samples and studies with weak methodologies. Moreover, although the research evidence is inconclusive – with studies reporting positive, negative, and null effects –most literature reviews concluded that the practice of sibling placement was supported by research evidence. Conclusion: Although there are moral reasons to support sibling placement, the research evidence does not consistently support the practice of placing siblings together. Further research is needed to identify when sibling placement poses a risk to children and when sibling placement is likely to facilitate positive outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number105943
JournalChildren and Youth Services Review
StatePublished - Jul 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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