First Advisor

Bowen McBeath

Date of Publication

Summer 8-5-2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Social Work and Social Research


Social Work




Brothers and sisters, Foster children -- Family relationships, Foster home care, Foster children -- Care



Physical Description

1 online resource (xi, 146 pages)


Sibling relationships are an important, yet under investigated aspect of foster care research. Despite the fact that between 65-85% of children in care have brothers and sisters, only recently have child welfare researchers begun to explore the complex and dynamic nature of sibling relationships in substitute care settings. Although cross-sectional and longitudinal studies suggest differences in placement stability and permanency outcomes for siblings placed together versus those placed separately, the conditions under which sibling relationships influence placement stability, permanency, and well-being in foster care settings remain unknown.

This dissertation investigated how family dynamics and home setting characteristics influenced the likelihood of a foster care placement change for a sample of children who participated in a sibling relationship enhancement intervention (SIBS-FC) study. A conceptual model was proposed to help explain the circumstances which lead to foster care placement change, and the moderating effects of family living composition on the odds of placement change over an 18-month period were examined.

Two multivariate statistical approaches were used in this investigation. The first approach involved examining the effects of a child's report of positive home integration, sibling relationship quality, caregiver's reported impact of child behavior, sibling living situation, kinship caregiver status, number of placements prior to study entry, and receipt of the SIBS-FC intervention on the odds of placement change. Results suggest that children in kinship care were 58% less likely to experience placement change than those who lived in non-relative care, and youth who lived apart from their siblings were 70% more likely to experience placement change than those who lived together.

In the second statistical approach, living composition categories were constructed to understand the moderating effects of different living situations on the odds of placement change. Living composition categories included youth who lived in kinship care with their siblings, youth who lived in kinship care without their siblings, and youth who lived in non-relative care with their siblings, with youth in non-relative care who lived apart from their siblings serving as the referent category. Findings support a moderation effect for different categories of living composition, as well as a trend level effect for sibling relationship quality and odds of placement change. Living with one's sibling in kinship care decreased the odds of placement change by 75%, as compared to living apart from one's sibling in a non-relative foster home. A post-hoc analysis determined that all living composition categories were statistically different from one another in relative odds of a placement change.

This dissertation provides additional evidence concerning the protective nature of kinship care and sibling co-placement on reducing the odds of experiencing a foster care placement change, and provides support for practices and policies prioritizing kinship care and the co-placement of siblings when making substitute care placement decisions. Future studies of siblings in foster care should explore the experiences of youth across the different forms of foster care living composition, examine the relationship between placement stability and permanency outcomes, and examine the relationship between placement stability, permanency, and child well-being.


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