Maine Creates New Law To Keep Siblings Together

For a foster child, stability and familial ties are often only a dream. However, a new law in Maine will make keeping siblings together in foster placements a reality for these children whose world has been turned upside down.

Fox 22 WFVX Bangor reports on the bill sponsored by Maine Rep. Richard Malaby. The bill aims to protect that sibling bond by not allowing for siblings to be separated in the system. Malaby remarks, “If you can’t be with your parents because the court so deems, you should at the minimum be with your siblings.”

This new law prevents children from being separated from their siblings while in the foster care system. The goal is to provide stability and to avoid any added stressors on the children placed in care. This bill aims to prevent an already damaging situation from becoming worse by separating siblings.

Child protection attorney Newell Augur spoke with Fox 22 about the bill, noting, “You’re talking about children who have already been separated from their parents because their parents can’t take care of them, and now we’re doing the added damage to this child of separating them permanently from their siblings.”

Tackling the rights of siblings in the foster system is new territory in general. Fox 22 references a study done by the University of Maine School of Law which showed that there were no previous laws or guidelines set for governing the protection of siblings in foster care. These findings were presented to the Judiciary Committee.

Dierdre Smith, the University of Maine School of Law professor, who led the study stated, “There actually wasn’t an expressed provision in Maine law in respect to sibling placement. There was language about sibling contact and making sure that siblings continued to have contact with each other while they were in foster care if they were not in the same placement, but nothing specifically about giving priority to keeping siblings together.”

There are many reasons this bill is so important, the largest being the right of siblings to maintain a relationship. Sibling sets do better in foster placement due to their common bond. They have often been through life-changing events together and have a need for a support system. This bill aims to protect their right to maintain that support throughout care.

The bill passed through the legislature but suffered a setback when it was vetoed by the governor. However, the robust support it received was enough to overcome the veto. The bill is set to be enacted into law in the coming month.