Over nearly a century of working in child welfare, we have learned the value of preserving family relationships. For this reason, ISS-USA has always sought to establish space for family members to create and maintain relationships, regardless of where their permanency goals take them.
In January, the state of New Jersey set out to build legislature around this practice, specifically in regards to siblings. In 2020, the Department of Children and Families’ (DCF) and the Office of Family Voice (OFV) created the Youth Council, made up of 24 members between the ages of 14-23. Each member had previously participated in one the DCF’s programs, giving them first-hand experience living within the child welfare system. Among various issues brought to the table, the Youth Council prioritized the importance of fostering and maintaining sibling relationships. From these powerful testimonials birthed the “Siblings’ Bill of Rights.” This bill, signed by Governor Murphy, gives children the right to be involved in the placement of their siblings AND outlines detailed ways for the state to support sibling relationships in the case of separation.
ISS-USA has and will continue to be committed to upholding this same standard. In the case of 9-year-old Pascal, the weight of the sibling bond is highly regarded and greatly respected. Pascal is one of three siblings born to his mother who no longer holds custody of the boys. Now residing with their maternal grandfather in New Jersey, the boys have grown up together. However, Pascal’s father, who lives in Argentina, is seeking to obtain custody of Pascal and this will remove him from the day to day contact he enjoys with his other siblings, who have different parentage.
Within the guidelines of the “Siblings’ Bill of Rights” Pascal will be able to have input on the decision of his future placement. In addition, he will be given assistance by the state to stay in touch and up to date with his siblings whether he remains in the state or reunites with his father in Argentina.
The information in this case story has been altered to protect the identities of all who are involved.