The tales of young siblings being separated by the state are tragic. I myself have an older brother, and cannot imagine a world without him. That's why many, like Alan Mishael, argue that siblings have rights to be together (a "fundamental right to family integrity"), and shouldn't be easily separated. And I agree totally. But, the issue is complicated.
When Carol Marbin Miller reported about Alan Mishael and his fight to keep the siblings together, she also reported about DCF's past record in keeping siblings together through adoption. It wasn't a rosy picture.
"A 2001 audit found that, statewide, siblings in state care who were eligible for adoption were in the same home 67 percent of the time; in Miami-Dade the success rate was 43 percent... And a soon-to-be released report from the University of Chicago found that siblings in foster care often do not live together in the same home, and visitation among brothers and sisters 'is occurring infrequently' in Miami-Dade and Monroe, and 'not occurring regularly' in Broward. The report says brothers and sisters don't get opportunities to talk on the phone or communicate in other ways."
Articles describing the problem of separation cite various obstacles: lists of potential families that only want one child, families that don't have the resources to take in more than one child, or a sibling with special needs. No doubt, there are many other obstacles, but according to Lillian Johnson, welfare department director of 10 years, it's mainly due to the list of potential families.
"[T]he likelihood of finding a family that will take more than two children is so limited... Sometimes all [welfare departments] have are families that only want one child."
Additionally, according to a great 2000 Salon article by Nell Burnstein, "[t]he [national] number of children in foster care has ballooned to more than 500,000 while the number of foster home beds has shrunk. And new federal legislation -- the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 (ASFA) -- has created pressure (and financial incentives) to get children into permanent homes as quickly as possible."
According to a 2005 Miami-Dade County report [PDF], the number of children in foster care has decreased from 5,911 in 2003 to 4,822 in 2005. Yet, a Miami Herald article last month (by Carol Marbin Miller) revealed that foster care is currently suffering from "serious flaws."
Through this tragedy of foster care, all measures should be taken to keep siblings together when they loose their parents, BEFORE one of them gets adopted (looking at you Joe Cubas). The benefits of keeping those bonds can have long-term positive impacts. Thus, there are means to preserving those bonds if they are eventually broken.
Maintaining the bonds of separated siblings can be done by simply arranging regular phone calls, letters or e-mail exchanges, or regular personal visits. Brian Samuels, former director of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services believes that "[i]n most cases, maintaining sibling contact is essential to the growth and development of these children."