Geographic proximity is extremely desirable in a guardian. While it’s common to think of the world as being a “global village”, human beings are very much constrained by space and time. Children, as much as adults, live in communities and have social connections reaching outside their immediate family members. A child has friends at school, and extra-curricular activities, such as soccer practices, singing lessons, etc. Removing a child from every stabilizing influence in the child’s life at the exact moment that the child has lost his or her parents is in most cases to be avoided.

That being said, I’d probably still opt to place a child with a brother or sister in another city than with a next door neighbour who is a lukewarm friend at best. Family bonds will themselves provide some stability and a sense of continuity. Perhaps above all else, you want your child to be loved. A sibling will almost certainly love your child, but a nearby friend may or may not have that type of connection.

That being said, I would hesitate to move a child to another country where he or she may struggle with the language and the culture. If your closest relatives live in a far off country where English isn’t commonly used, you may want to opt for a nearby friend. I’m no psychologist, but I suspect that a child is more likely to bond with someone he or she can relate to. If the child can’t even have a conversation with his uncle or aunt, real bonding may be difficult.