What does research say helps make contact a positive experience for children looked after in the care system?
2 minute read
A major review of research about children having contact with families in 2020 found that:
- Most children who are looked after in the care system value their family networks
- There should not be a ‘one size fits all’ approach to contact. Each child is different and has different needs. Contact arrangements should reflect this. And regularly reviewing arrangements as things change is important
- It is important for children and adults to be supported to understand the purpose of contact. When they do, contact is a better experience for the child
- Decisions about how often contact takes place need to be made keeping in mind the purpose of contact. Decisions need to also need to take into account: children’s views, any potential risk of harm and the quality of the relationships
- However often contact takes place, it must always be properly supported
- Sometimes children can become upset during contact. But this does not always have a negative impact on them if the right support is given by practitioners
- It is important to remember that difficulties in contact do not mean contact needs to be automatically be stopped. It may mean the family might just need a bit more help
- Skilled professional support can help repair relationships between children and their parents. If there have been difficulties with contact, and there are things that parents think will help, then they should raise this with the social worker
- Children’s views about contact may change over time. They may express their views in different ways. It is important that social workers work with the children and their family to think about how a child’s views and wishes about contact can be best explored
- When care proceedings are ongoing and the final plans for the children are not yet decided, it is important for families to be supported to have a good time in contact with their children
- Often, social workers will suggest that children have some telephone contact or contact via video conferencing calls. This type of indirect contact can be really good for children – but should be used to enhance rather than replace face to face contact with their families.