(20 ILCS 505/7.4)
    Sec. 7.4. Development and preservation of sibling relationships for children in care; placement of siblings; contact among siblings placed apart.
    (a) Purpose and policy. The General Assembly recognizes that sibling relationships are unique and essential for a person, but even more so for children who are removed from the care of their families and placed in the State child welfare system. When family separation occurs through State intervention, every effort must be made to preserve, support and nurture sibling relationships when doing so is in the best interest of each sibling. It is in the interests of foster children who are part of a sibling group to enjoy contact with one another, as long as the contact is in each child's best interest. This is true both while the siblings are in State care and after one or all of the siblings leave State care through adoption, guardianship, or aging out.
    (b) Definitions. For purposes of this Section:
        (1) Whenever a best interest determination is
    
required by this Section, the Department shall consider the factors set out in subsection (4.05) of Section 1-3 of the Juvenile Court Act of 1987 and the Department's rules regarding Sibling Placement, 89 111. Admin. Code 301.70 and Sibling Visitation, 89 111. Admin. Code 301.220, and the Department's rules regarding Placement Selection Criteria, 89 111. Admin. Code 301.60.
        (2) "Adopted child" means a child who, immediately
    
preceding the adoption, was in the custody or guardianship of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services under Article II of the Juvenile Court Act of 1987.
        (3) "Adoptive parent" means a person who has become a
    
parent through the legal process of adoption.
        (4) "Child" means a person in the temporary custody
    
or guardianship of the Department who is under the age of 21.
        (5) "Child placed in private guardianship" means a
    
child who, immediately preceding the guardianship, was in the custody or guardianship of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services under Article II of the Juvenile Court Act.
        (6) "Contact" may include, but is not limited to
    
visits, telephone calls, letters, sharing of photographs or information, e-mails, video conferencing, and other form of communication or contact.
        (7) "Legal guardian" means a person who has become
    
the legal guardian of a child who, immediately prior to the guardianship, was in the custody or guardianship of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services under Article II of the Juvenile Court Act of 1987.
        (8) "Parent" means the child's mother or father who
    
is named as the respondent in proceedings conducted under Article II of the Juvenile Court Act of 1987.
        (9) "Post Permanency Sibling Contact" means contact
    
between siblings following the entry of a Judgment Order for Adoption under Section 14 of the Adoption Act regarding at least one sibling or an Order for Guardianship appointing a private guardian under Section 2-27 or the Juvenile Court Act of 1987, regarding at least one sibling. Post Permanency Sibling Contact may include, but is not limited to, visits, telephone calls, letters, sharing of photographs or information, emails, video conferencing, and other form of communication or connection agreed to by the parties to a Post Permanency Sibling Contact Agreement.
        (10) "Post Permanency Sibling Contact Agreement"
    
means a written agreement between the adoptive parent or parents, the child, and the child's sibling regarding post permanency contact between the adopted child and the child's sibling, or a written agreement between the legal guardians, the child, and the child's sibling regarding post permanency contact between the child placed in guardianship and the child's sibling. The Post Permanency Sibling Contact Agreement may specify the nature and frequency of contact between the adopted child or child placed in guardianship and the child's sibling following the entry of the Judgment Order for Adoption or Order for Private Guardianship. The Post Permanency Sibling Contact Agreement may be supported by services as specified in this Section. The Post Permanency Sibling Contact Agreement is voluntary on the part of the parties to the Post Permanency Sibling Contact Agreement and is not a requirement for finalization of the child's adoption or guardianship. The Post Permanency Sibling Contract Agreement shall not be enforceable in any court of law or administrative forum and no cause of action shall be brought to enforce the Agreement. When entered into, the Post Permanency Sibling Contact Agreement shall be placed in the child's Post Adoption or Guardianship case record and in the case file of a sibling who is a party to the agreement and who remains in the Department's custody or guardianship.
        (11) "Sibling Contact Support Plan" means a written
    
document that sets forth the plan for future contact between siblings who are in the Department's care and custody and residing separately. The goal of the Support Plan is to develop or preserve and nurture the siblings' relationships. The Support Plan shall set forth the role of the foster parents, caregivers, and others in implementing the Support Plan. The Support Plan must meet the minimum standards regarding frequency of in-person visits provided for in Department rule.
        (12) "Siblings" means children who share at least one
    
parent in common. This definition of siblings applies solely for purposes of placement and contact under this Section. For purposes of this Section, children who share at least one parent in common continue to be siblings after their parent's parental rights are terminated, if parental rights were terminated while a petition under Article II of the Juvenile Court Act of 1987 was pending. For purposes of this Section, children who share at least one parent in common continue to be siblings after a sibling is adopted or placed in private guardianship when the adopted child or child placed in private guardianship was in the Department's custody or guardianship under Article II of the Juvenile Court Act of 1987 immediately prior to the adoption or private guardianship. For children who have been in the guardianship of the Department under Article II of the Juvenile Court Act of 1987, have been adopted, and are subsequently returned to the temporary custody or guardianship of the Department under Article II of the Juvenile Court Act of 1987, "siblings" includes a person who would have been considered a sibling prior to the adoption and siblings through adoption.
    (c) No later than January 1, 2013, the Department shall promulgate rules addressing the development and preservation of sibling relationships. The rules shall address, at a minimum:
        (1) Recruitment, licensing, and support of foster
    
parents willing and capable of either fostering sibling groups or supporting and being actively involved in planning and executing sibling contact for siblings placed apart. The rules shall address training for foster parents, licensing workers, placement workers, and others as deemed necessary.
        (2) Placement selection for children who are
    
separated from their siblings and how to best promote placements of children with foster parents or programs that can meet the children's needs, including the need to develop and maintain contact with siblings.
        (3) State-supported guidance to siblings who have
    
aged out of state care regarding positive engagement with siblings.
        (4) Implementation of Post Permanency Sibling
    
Contact Agreements for children exiting State care, including services offered by the Department to encourage and assist parties in developing agreements, services offered by the Department post permanency to support parties in implementing and maintaining agreements, and including services offered by the Department post permanency to assist parties in amending agreements as necessary to meet the needs of the children.
        (5) Services offered by the Department for children
    
who exited foster care prior to the availability of Post Permanency Sibling Contact Agreements, to invite willing parties to participate in a facilitated discussion, including, but not limited to, a mediation or joint team decision-making meeting, to explore sibling contact.
    (d) The Department shall develop a form to be provided to youth entering care and exiting care explaining their rights and responsibilities related to sibling visitation while in care and post permanency.
    (e) Whenever a child enters care or requires a new placement, the Department shall consider the development and preservation of sibling relationships.
        (1) This subsection applies when a child entering
    
care or requiring a change of placement has siblings who are in the custody or guardianship of the Department. When a child enters care or requires a new placement, the Department shall examine its files and other available resources and determine whether a sibling of that child is in the custody or guardianship of the Department. If the Department determines that a sibling is in its custody or guardianship, the Department shall then determine whether it is in the best interests of each of the siblings for the child needing placement to be placed with the sibling. If the Department determines that it is in the best interest of each sibling to be placed together, and the sibling's foster parent is able and willing to care for the child needing placement, the Department shall place the child needing placement with the sibling. A determination that it is not in a child's best interest to be placed with a sibling shall be made in accordance with Department rules, and documented in the file of each sibling.
        (2) This subsection applies when a child who is
    
entering care has siblings who have been adopted or placed in private guardianship. When a child enters care, the Department shall examine its files and other available resources, including consulting with the child's parents, to determine whether a sibling of the child was adopted or placed in private guardianship from State care. The Department shall determine, in consultation with the child's parents, whether it would be in the child's best interests to explore placement with the adopted sibling or sibling in guardianship. Unless the parent objects, if the Department determines it is in the child's best interest to explore the placement, the Department shall contact the adoptive parents or guardians of the sibling, determine whether they are willing to be considered as placement resources for the child, and, if so, determine whether it is in the best interests of the child to be placed in the home with the sibling. If the Department determines that it is in the child's best interests to be placed in the home with the sibling, and the sibling's adoptive parents or guardians are willing and capable, the Department shall make the placement. A determination that it is not in a child's best interest to be placed with a sibling shall be made in accordance with Department rule, and documented in the child's file.
        (3) This subsection applies when a child in
    
Department custody or guardianship requires a change of placement, and the child has siblings who have been adopted or placed in private guardianship. When a child in care requires a new placement, the Department may consider placing the child with the adoptive parent or guardian of a sibling under the same procedures and standards set forth in paragraph (2) of this subsection.
        (4) When the Department determines it is not in the
    
best interest of one or more siblings to be placed together the Department shall ensure that the child requiring placement is placed in a home or program where the caregiver is willing and able to be actively involved in supporting the sibling relationship to the extent doing so is in the child's best interest.
    (f) When siblings in care are placed in separate placements, the Department shall develop a Sibling Contact Support Plan. The Department shall convene a meeting to develop the Support Plan. The meeting shall include, at a minimum, the case managers for the siblings, the foster parents or other care providers if a child is in a non-foster home placement and the child, when developmentally and clinically appropriate. The Department shall make all reasonable efforts to promote the participation of the foster parents. Parents whose parental rights are intact shall be invited to the meeting. Others, such as therapists and mentors, shall be invited as appropriate. The Support Plan shall set forth future contact and visits between the siblings to develop or preserve, and nurture the siblings' relationships. The Support Plan shall set forth the role of the foster parents and caregivers and others in implementing the Support Plan. The Support Plan must meet the minimum standards regarding frequency of in-person visits provided for in Department rule. The Support Plan will be incorporated in the child's service plan and reviewed at each administrative case review. The Support Plan should be modified if one of the children moves to a new placement, or as necessary to meet the needs of the children. The Sibling Contact Support Plan for a child in care may include siblings who are not in the care of the Department, with the consent and participation of that child's parent or guardian.
    (g) By January 1, 2013, the Department shall develop a registry so that placement information regarding adopted siblings and siblings in private guardianship is readily available to Department and private agency caseworkers responsible for placing children in the Department's care. When a child is adopted or placed in private guardianship from foster care the Department shall inform the adoptive parents or guardians that they may be contacted in the future regarding placement of or contact with siblings subsequently requiring placement.
    (h) When a child is in need of an adoptive placement, the Department shall examine its files and other available resources and attempt to determine whether a sibling of the child has been adopted or placed in private guardianship after being in the Department's custody or guardianship. If the Department determines that a sibling of the child has been adopted or placed in private guardianship, the Department shall make a good faith effort to locate the adoptive parents or guardians of the sibling and inform them of the availability of the child for adoption. The Department may determine not to inform the adoptive parents or guardians of a sibling of a child that the child is available for adoption only for a reason permitted under criteria adopted by the Department by rule, and documented in the child's case file. If a child available for adoption has a sibling who has been adopted or placed in guardianship, and the adoptive parents or guardians of that sibling apply to adopt the child, the Department shall consider them as adoptive applicants for the adoption of the child. The Department's final decision as to whether it will consent to the adoptive parents or guardians of a sibling being the adoptive parents of the child shall be based upon the welfare and best interest of the child. In arriving at its decision, the Department shall consider all relevant factors, including but not limited to:
        (1) the wishes of the child;
        (2) the interaction and interrelationship of the
    
child with the applicant to adopt the child;
        (3) the child's need for stability and continuity of
    
relationship with parent figures;
        (4) the child's adjustment to his or her present
    
home, school, and community;
        (5) the mental and physical health of all individuals
    
involved;
        (6) the family ties between the child and the child's
    
relatives, including siblings;
        (7) the background, age, and living arrangements of
    
the applicant to adopt the child;
        (8) a criminal background report of the applicant to
    
adopt the child.
    If placement of the child available for adoption with the adopted sibling or sibling in private guardianship is not feasible, but it is in the child's best interest to develop a relationship with his or her sibling, the Department shall invite the adoptive parents, guardian, or guardians for a mediation or joint team decision-making meeting to facilitate a discussion regarding future sibling contact.
    (i) Post Permanency Sibling Contact Agreement. When a child in the Department's care has a permanency goal of adoption or private guardianship, and the Department is preparing to finalize the adoption or guardianship, the Department shall convene a meeting with the pre-adoptive parent or prospective guardian and the case manager for the child being adopted or placed in guardianship and the foster parents and case managers for the child's siblings, and others as applicable. The children should participate as is developmentally appropriate. Others, such as therapists and mentors, may participate as appropriate. At the meeting the Department shall encourage the parties to discuss sibling contact post permanency. The Department may assist the parties in drafting a Post Permanency Sibling Contact Agreement.
        (1) Parties to the Post Permanency Sibling Contact
    
Agreement shall include:
            (A) The adoptive parent or parents or guardian.
            (B) The child's sibling or siblings, parents or
        
guardians.
            (C) The child.
        (2) Consent of child 14 and over. The written consent
    
of a child age 14 and over to the terms and conditions of the Post Permanency Sibling Contact Agreement and subsequent modifications is required.
        (3) In developing this Agreement, the Department
    
shall encourage the parties to consider the following factors:
            (A) the physical and emotional safety and welfare
        
of the child;
            (B) the child's wishes;
            (C) the interaction and interrelationship of the
        
child with the child's sibling or siblings who would be visiting or communicating with the child, including:
                (i) the quality of the relationship between
            
the child and the sibling or siblings, and
                (ii) the benefits and potential harms to the
            
child in allowing the relationship or relationships to continue or in ending them;
            (D) the child's sense of attachments to the
        
birth sibling or siblings and adoptive family, including:
                (i) the child's sense of being valued;
                (ii) the child's sense of familiarity; and
                (iii) continuity of affection for the child;
            
and
            (E) other factors relevant to the best interest
        
of the child.
        (4) In considering the factors in paragraph (3) of
    
this subsection, the Department shall encourage the parties to recognize the importance to a child of developing a relationship with siblings including siblings with whom the child does not yet have a relationship; and the value of preserving family ties between the child and the child's siblings, including:
            (A) the child's need for stability and continuity
        
of relationships with siblings, and
            (B) the importance of sibling contact in the
        
development of the child's identity.
        (5) Modification or termination of Post Permanency
    
Sibling Contact Agreement. The parties to the agreement may modify or terminate the Post Permanency Sibling Contact Agreement. If the parties cannot agree to modification or termination, they may request the assistance of the Department of Children and Family Services or another agency identified and agreed upon by the parties to the Post Permanency Sibling Contact Agreement. Any and all terms may be modified by agreement of the parties. Post Permanency Sibling Contact Agreements may also be modified to include contact with siblings whose whereabouts were unknown or who had not yet been born when the Judgment Order for Adoption or Order for Private Guardianship was entered.
        (6) Adoptions and private guardianships finalized
    
prior to the effective date of amendatory Act. Nothing in this Section prohibits the parties from entering into a Post Permanency Sibling Contact Agreement if the adoption or private guardianship was finalized prior to the effective date of this Section. If the Agreement is completed and signed by the parties, the Department shall include the Post Permanency Sibling Contact Agreement in the child's Post Adoption or Private Guardianship case record and in the case file of siblings who are parties to the agreement who are in the Department's custody or guardianship.
(Source: P.A. 97-1076, eff. 8-24-12; 98-463, eff. 8-16-13.)