The Department of Children and Family Services (“DCFS”) has ratified amendments to their code that concern contact and visitation between siblings while some or all are in the care and custody of DCFS, but not living in the same household. Pub. Act 97-1076, and amend 12 Parts. 89 Ill. Adm. Code 300 et seq (eff. Dec. 31, 2015).
The definition of “sibling” has been expanded by the amendments to include step-siblings when they enter DCFS care together and have a positive relationship. Also, even though generally practiced throughout DCFS already, the amendments clarifies that children with one or both biological parents in common continue to be considered siblings even if parental rights are terminated or one or more of the children are adopted or placed in private guardianship.
The following new requirements have also been placed on DCFS:
- DCFS must include preservation of sibling relationships as a factor in substitute care placement decisions;
- Train staff regarding the importance of sibling relationships;
- Place siblings together in substitute care when possible; and
- Recruit adoptive homes that will accept sibling groups and encourage ongoing sibling contact.
These new rules ensure that sibling relationships are prioritized in the DCFS system for the benefit and well-being of the children in it.