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 (and family) not being well-served by your Sibshop effort.

To the extent possible, Sibshops attempt to give participants a safe place where they can openly discuss the “good and not-so-good” aspects of life with a sibling who has special needs. In order to assure that they can speak freely, facilitators, as a rule, will not specifically divulge what participants discuss during a Sibshop with parents. (Facilitators, however, are encouraged to discuss the general topics that participants discussed during parent meetings.)

On rare occasions, however, children may reveal information that will need to be shared with parents or, in extreme cases, with appropriate agencies. Before such contact is made with either parents or agencies, the concern should be discussed with the entire Sibshop team. Your Sibshop team should be aware—in advance of a problem–of your state’s rules regarding to mandated reporting.

It is reasonable to ask parents to pay a fee for their children to attend a Sibshop. Most Sibshops far cost less than childcare would for the same amount of time. Fees can help offset costs associated with running a Sibshop. Perhaps most importantly, fees help insure that parents bring their children to the Sibshop that facilitators have worked so hard to make rewarding.

However, a significant effort should be made to assure that Sibshops are available to families who cannot afford the set fee. On the registration forms of many Sibshops is a statement similar to the following: “A limited number of Sibshop scholarships are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Check here if you’d like your child considered for a Sibshop scholarship.” On the same form, other parents who have the means can be given an opportunity to contribute to the Sibshops scholarship fund.

Ideally, at least one of your Sibshop’s facilitators will be an adult sibling. If this is not possible, seek a parent who can offer advice, provide a family perspective, and help you spread the word about your program. Good word of mouth among families is critical to drawing children to your Sibshop. Family involvement–as well as Goal 5 of the Sibshop curriculum–will also be achieved by hosting at least one meeting per year for the parents of the children who attend your Sibshop. These meetings may be held concurrently with your Sibshop and can be informal discussions of why parents enrolled their children in Sibshops, Sibshop goals and activities, and general topics discussed by Sibshop participants.

The brothers and sisters who attend your Sibshop should be given some say about Sibshop activities. This is especially true for Teen Sibshops. Seek their feedback about activities they liked and disliked and ideas that they have for recreation, discussion, and informational activities. The Sibshop curriculum is not so regimented that it can’t accommodate bright ideas from the young people who attend them!

At least once per year, your Sibshop should plan on “checking in” with both the young siblings who attend your Sibshop as well as their parents. Use or adapt the evaluation forms found on pages 101-103 of Sibshops. These evaluations are easy to administer and will provide your team with valuable feedback.

Based on years of conducting programs for siblings, we believe that Sibshop facilitators should share some varied core skills. As described in the Sibshops curriculum, it is strongly desired that Sibshop facilitators:

  • Have a working knowledge of the unique concerns and opportunities experienced by brothers and sisters of children with special needs.
  • Have personal or professional experience with people who have special needs and with their families.
  • Be familiar with active listening principles.
  • Have experience leading groups, preferably groups of children.
  • Convey a sense of joy, wonder and play.
  • Be available to meet at the times and dates identified by the planning committee.
  • Be somewhat physically fit (to keep up with the kiddos during Sibshop activities!).
  • Appreciate that the Sibshop participants, not the facilitators, are the experts on living with a brother or sister with special needs.

Review these bullets with members of your team to make sure that your team of facilitators embodies these qualifications. In certain instances, allowances can be made for one team member lacking a particular skill if it is compensated by another team member who possesses that skill. For instance, your Sibshop may have a team member who is gifted at leading group discussions but has a physical disability that makes it impossible for her to pitch lively recreational activities. Her difficulty might be compensated by a team member who may not be especially good at leading group discussions but is highly skilled at leading recreational activities.

All programs that use the Sibshops name and logo must have at least one facilitator or administrator who has been certified as a First Generation Sibshop Facilitator (FGSF) by completing the Sibshop Facilitator Training of the Sibling Support Project. All facilitators are strongly encouraged to attend a Sibshop training offered by the Sibling Support Project. It is the single best way to get “up to speed” on sibling issues and learn what Sibshops are fundamentally about.

Training is offered online and in-person.  Online training is a wonderfully accessible way to become certified as a Sibshop Facilitator. In-person training is best when hosted in the community where the new Sibshop is to be created. As training includes a Demonstration Sibshop, these two-day events are a great way to kick off a local Sibshop and educate parents, service providers, and future Sibshop facilitators about siblings’ life-long concerns. When hosting a training is not possible, you may attend a Sibshop training offered elsewhere as an alternative. To learn about upcoming Sibshop trainings, click here.

Although attending training from the Sibling Support Project is preferred, FGSFs may train new staff to assist with Sibshops at their own agencies. Facilitators trained this way are considered Second-Generation Sibshop Facilitators (SGSFs). To ensure that siblings who attend a local Sibshop participate in a program that reflects Sibshops goals and values, and to avoid a photocopy-of-a-photocopy-of-a-photocopy phenomena, SGSFs may not train new Sibshop facilitators, even at their own agency.

To continue offering Sibshops when the only FGSF leaves the organization, at least one person from the host organization must become certified as a FGSF by completing a two-day Sibling Support Project Sibshop Facilitator Training within six months of the departure of the certified facilitator, or with advanced approval by the Sibling Support Project.

As discussed in Standard 2 (Endorsing the Goals of Sibshops) community-based Sibshop facilitators are encouraged to conduct awareness-level workshops on Sibshops. However, they may not train others on how to run a Sibshop model at regional, state, or national venues.

The Sibshop Facilitator Forum (SFF) is a closed Facebook group just for facilitators from registered Sibshops. SFF is an excellent forum to meet others running Sibshops and share ideas, challenges, and stories of your successes. It is also the easiest way for the Sibling Support Project to communicate with Sibshops across the world. To be a registered Sibshop, at least one member of your Sibshop staff must belong to the Sibshop Facilitator Forum. Please note that you must include the name of your registered Sibshop when requesting to join the group.

Year-round, Sibshop facilitators come up with novel activities that are not in the pages of the Sibshops curriculum. To encourage sharing the wealth and enriching the Sibshop curriculum, we ask that each Sibshop program submit at least one, and preferably three, activities online at the Sibshop Facilitator Forum on Facebook. These may be recreational (includes new games, crafts, art and cooking projects), discussion, or information activities. Sharing will give all Sibshops a rich array of activities to choose from, and help all of us provide fun, engaging ways for young sibs to connect! Facilitators are asked to post activities in the discussion section of the SFF page, and also save them to the “files” folder. If we use your activity in a future edition of the Sibshop curriculum, we will be sure to give you credit.

Registered Sibshops may use the Sibshop name and the Sibshop logo, but the name and logo must be used correctly. Please note that it is “Sibshop” and never “SibShop” or “Sib Shop.” The Sibshop curriculum is copyrighted and the Sibshop logo is trademarked. Consequently, the Sibshop logo may not be altered in any way without prior permission of the Sibling Support Project.

To use the Sibshop name and logo, your program must be a registered Sibshop. Luckily, registration is easy, quick, and completed online. Please note: All Sibshops must complete a one-time online registration.

During the online registration site, you will:

Indicate that you have completed the necessary requirements to become a registered Sibshop;

Indicate that you agree with the Standards; and

Provide us with contact information about your Sibshop program.

Once you register online, we will post key contact information about your Sibshop on our website’s online directory. This information will assist countless parents who visit the Project’s webpages seeking a local Sibshop for their children. Please note: it will be your responsibility to make sure that that your contact information and Sibshop details are up to date. Please store your login information for future updates to your Sibshop posting.

Following registration, you will be provided with instructions on how to make updates on the information we have about your program. Please save the username and password you create to register your Sibshop listing on!

Register online here.