Contact Between the Child and Their Family

Standards & Regulations

Fostering Services National Minimum Standards (England) 2011:

Training, Support and Development Standards for Foster Care:


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Contact and Emotional Health and Well-Being
  3. Contact Policy and Guidance
  4. Confidentiality
  5. Problems with Contact

 

1. Introduction

Research says that maintaining links between a child and their family increases the possibility of them returning home. Where this is not possible, research also says contact enhances a child’s sense of identity as well as avoiding breakdowns in foster placements.

Contact with family and friends will be set out in the Placement Plan. This will detail where, when and how contact will take place including whether it will be supervised. Contact is usually expected to take place in the foster carers home unless there is very good reason not to do so may take place in the foster home or somewhere else depending on what might be best for all those involved.


2. Contact and Emotional Health and Well-Being

Kent County Council is committed to promoting contact between looked after children and their families. Current legislation favours the concept that children can benefit from knowledge about and contact with members of their birth families. Contact keeps alive a sense of the child’s origins and can help to keep options open for family relationships in the future.

Contact is for the child or young person and arrangements will be based on the child’s individual needs, taking account his/her wishes and feelings as appropriate. There is an expectation that contact would usually take place within the child’s foster home as this is a comfortable setting for the child. If there are good reasons why contact cannot take place within the foster home - for example, because the parents may pose a risk - then the reasons for this must be discussed with those concerned and recorded by the child’s social worker.

Children should experience consistency in relation to contact arrangements including those involved in the management of the contact session. If contact takes place outside the foster home, carers are therefore expected to provide transport to and from contact.


3. Contact Policy and Guidance

This will provide additional information about contact. The BAAF publication ‘Ten Top Tips for Managing Contact’ by Henrietta Bond looks at some fundamental positive steps that carers can take to ensure that contact is a beneficial experience.

The child’s social worker will provide you with the necessary information including any assessment of risk for those involved. The needs, wishes and feelings of the child are also important when planning contact.

The fostering service through your Fostering Social Worker will give you practical advice and support to make sure contact is appropriate and safe.

Contact is not just face to face and can be a phone call, letters, emails, photographs or cards from holidays or special occasions.

It is important that children from a dual heritage background or who are not a cultural match but placed with you, maintain their links with their family, friends and community so that their cultural history is encouraged, developed and valued.

It is not unusual for children to ask to have contact with relatives or friends they may have lost touch with before coming into care. If this happens speak to the child’s social worker.

You should record the behaviour and reaction of the child before and after contact. This may identify patterns which can contribute to future decision making.

You should discuss contact in your supervision meeting with your Fostering Social Worker so that problems can be identified and hopefully resolved.

Contact can increase a child’s sense of security when the people who are important to them are comfortable with each other. This can also help parents and other family members to feel less awkward and threatened.

The child may be allowed to visit their birth parents at home. These visits, which may include staying overnight, must be planned in advance, with the child’s social worker.

Sometimes the child may appear anxious and upset by a visit. This may be because the visits:

  • Remind them of feelings of loss and separation;
  • Remind them of feelings about past experiences;
  • Highlight feelings of divided loyalties.

If you have any concerns at all you must speak to the child’s social worker.

Contact should be planned and agreed as part of the Placement Plan and regularly reviewed including at the Child in Care Review meetings. Arrangements and the duration and frequency of contact may change over time. It is important that you support young people in the contact arrangements and this includes making sure they arrive for contact on time (if it’s not in your home) and are collected on time. If you are supervising contact you should keep a record of the contact session and share this with the child’s social worker.


4. Confidentiality

Working with birth parents is an important part of fostering. A vital element of this is trust and confidentiality.

In sharing the care of a child, you will receive a lot of confidential information which you may wish to share with those closest to you, discuss this  with the child’s Social Worker in the first instance.

You may also talk to other carers about children you are caring for perhaps in general or to seek support. You should remember to treat any discussions in confidence and children should never be specifically identified or named.


5. Problems with Contact

Contact can cause distress and upset for a child/young person and you are often the person who has to deal with this when a child feels confused, angry or disappointed. You may also have mixed emotions when this happens. You should be offered practical support if needed to support appropriate contact.

You may feel that the family is letting the child down, but, there could be many reasons for this.

  • The family may feel guilty or angry that their child is in foster care;
  • A child may have been placed in an emergency when the family was experiencing problems;
  • Parents may feel angry that their children are living with you if this against their wishes and resent having to comply with plans they don’t agree with;
  • Parents can also worry that you will take their place in the child’s life and may have heard in the media about foster carers wanting to adopt fostered children;
  • Parents may also feel they have let their child down which can impact on their motivation and reliability.

These reasons and feelings can lead to parents behaving in ways which appear inappropriate during contact. They may be very emotional, give the children unrealistic messages or making promises.

Understanding the parents' experience can help to make sense of the situation for the child as well as the family.

Any restrictions on communication by the child with their parents should be agreed by the child’s social worker and reviewed alongside the child’s wishes and feelings.

If you feel that changes should be made to contact to protect the child from Significant Harm the child’s social worker should be told immediately or within 24 hours. The Out of hours may also be contacted for advice. If the child returns from contact and you are concerned in any way about something that has been said or done particularly if you think it has harmed the child in anyway, you must report this to the child’s social worker or a duty worker in their office immediately or within 24 hours.