The Sibshops Standards of Practice

A simple web search for “Sibshop” results in thousands of hits. In addition to the wonderful community-based Sibshops that are being run in almost every state and in countries from Argentina to New Zealand, Sibshops are increasingly being offered as part of state and national conferences and as an adjunct to parent support groups throughout the US and elsewhere.

While we are truly pleased that there is such interest in the model, we need to protect young sibs by making sure that when parents send their children to a Sibshop, they are sending them to a program that is true to the spirit and goals of the model.

To this end, we have worked with long-time Sibshop facilitators in drafting Standards of Practice for programs wishing to become a registered Sibshop and use the (trademarked) Sibshop name, a “sound-alike” name (e.g., “Sib Shop”) or the Sibshop logo. We are grateful to the members of the Sibshop Standards of Practice Committee for helping us with this important project.

Please download the Sibshops Standards of Practice and distribute to each adult facilitator of your Sibshop program and extra copies for any staff members who may join your program. Please review the Standards with the other Sibshop facilitators and administrators, and be sure to register your Sibshop online as discussed at the end of this document. If you have questions along the way, please do not hesitate to write or call.

Thank you, in advance, for taking the time to work through this document and thanks for understanding the need for high standards in our efforts to provide brothers and sisters with peer support and information.

One final note: As a Sibshop facilitator or administrator, you likely offer Sibshops in addition to many other responsibilities. Still, you and your colleagues find time in your busy schedules and lives because you care deeply about brothers and sisters and their concerns. Local providers like you–who are making a difference in the lives of sibs on a daily basis–are our heroes. We can’t thank you enough for what you are doing for the brothers and sisters in your community. Please let us know how we may support your important work.

All the Best,

Emily Holl, Director
Sibling Support Project
16120 NE 8th Street Bellevue, WA 98008

The Sibshops Standards of Practice

On the very first page of Sibshops: Workshops for siblings of children with special needs, Sibshops are described this way:

For the adults who plan them and the agencies that sponsor them, Sibshops are best described as opportunities for brothers and sisters of children with special health and developmental needs to obtain peer support and education within a recreational context. They often reflect an agency’s commitment to the well- being of the family member most likely to have the longest-lasting relationship with the person with special needs.

However, for the young people who attend them and the energetic people who run them, Sibshops are best described as events. Sibshops are lively, pedal-to-the-metal celebrations of the many contributions made by brothers and sisters of kids with special needs. Sibshops acknowledge that being the brother or sister of a person with special needs is for some a good thing, for others a not-so-good thing, and for many somewhere in between. They reflect a belief that brothers and sisters have much to offer one another—if they are given a chance. The Sibshop model intersperses information and discussion activities with new games (designed to be unique, offbeat, and appealing to a wide ability range), cooking and art activities, and special guests…Well run, Sibshops are as fun and rewarding for the people who host them as they are for the participants.

Sibshops seek to provide siblings with opportunities for peer support. Because Sibshops are designed for school-age children, peer support is provided within a lively, recreational context that emphasizes a kids’-eye view.

Sibshops are not therapy, group or otherwise, although their effect may be therapeutic for some children. Sibshops acknowledge that most brothers and sisters of people with special needs, like their parents, are doing well, despite the challenges of an illness or disability. Consequently, while Sibshop facilitators always keep an eye open for participants who may need additional services, the Sibshop model takes a wellness approach.

Sibshops should also never be confused with childcare. Sometimes, agencies wish to offer Sibshops concurrently with parent support meetings. While this “two ring” approach is acceptable, agencies will need to add a “third ring”: childcare for the children who have special needs and for the typically developing siblings who are either not in the target age range or simply do not wish to be a part of your Sibshop.

Sibshops, therefore:

  • should be decidedly fun to attend;
  • provide peer support and information within a recreational context;
  • may be “therapeutic” to attend but are not therapy, group or otherwise;
  • utilize an approach that emphasizes wellness; and
  • should never be considered childcare.

As described in the Sibshop curriculum, Sibshop goals are:

Goal 1: Sibshops will provide brothers and sisters of children with special needs an opportunity to meet other siblings in a relaxed, recreational setting.

Goal 2: Sibshops will provide brothers and sisters with opportunities to discuss common joys and concerns with other siblings of children with special needs.

Goal 3: Sibshops will provide siblings with an opportunity to learn how others handle situations commonly experienced by siblings of children with special needs.

Goal 4: Sibshops will provide siblings with an opportunity to learn more about the implications of their sibling’s special needs.

Goal 5: Sibshops will provide parents and other professionals with opportunities to learn more about the concerns and opportunities frequently experienced by brothers and sisters of people with special needs.

These goals will drive the activities of your Sibshop. Although most Sibshops do an excellent job with goals 1–3, goals 4 and 5 are too often overlooked and shouldn’t be.

Brothers and sisters will have a life-long and ever-changing need for information about their sibs’ disabilities and the services they receive. As a peer support and education model, Sibshops are a marvelous opportunity to provide participants with kid-friendly information about a wide range of topics from guest speakers, tours, discussions, etc.

If we hope that parents will attend to the needs of their typically developing children, we will need to inform them of sibs’ life-long concerns. If we wish to create systemic change that assures that sibs are on agencies’ radar screens and in their working definition of “family,” it will require that we educate our colleagues and advocate for sibs’ concerns.

I BELONG. We are committed to ensuring that Sibshops are inclusive, equitable spaces in which every child and facilitator feels a genuine sense of belonging. To this end, we are dedicated to eradicating racial and oppressive barriers so everyone succeeds.  We are devoted to creating a positive, safe, supportive and comfortable Sibshop environment in which all children and adults are able to thrive in ways that are helpful and meaningful to them.

Most, but not all siblings of children with special needs will be well-served by Sibshops’ lively mix of fun, peer support, and information. For some children, however, Sibshops may not be the right approach. These children may not be comfortable in groups or they may prefer to get peer support and information in other ways (e.g., online groups, books, or informal opportunities).

Other children will have needs that go beyond what a Sibshop can reasonably provide. As mentioned in the above description of Sibshops, facilitators will need to keep an eye open for participants who may need additional services. Your Sibshop team of facilitators and appropriate administrators should know–in advance of a problematic situation—people and agencies in your community who might be able to help a child (