When fostering it is important that we support our children and young people's contact with their birth family, where appropriate and safe to do so. Keeping up regular contact whether in person or over the phone is important as it helps children and teenagers maintain their identity. Maintaining contact between the child and their direct family will help the relationship stay strong for if the child returns home.
Contact between children and parents or siblings may only be permitted if previously agreed by the child's social worker and set out in the child's Placement Plan.
We asked our Futures Group, supervising social worker to help explain the arrangements between a foster child and their birth family.
Will the foster child see their family unsupervised?
"Some family time has to be supervised by a social worker or other professionals to ensure the safety of the child within family time. Some family time is unsupervised and plans are less structured whilst for other children, there is a clear structured plan for when a child can see their family."
What is a foster carers role in 'family time' plans?
"The role of a foster carer within these plans is to support the child in their care, to ensure the child is prepared and available for planned family time, to support them prior and following the family time and also to observe any impact on the child from family time with birth family. Foster carers can also play an active role in family time and attend with the child and be part of their family time sessions if this is in the best interests of the child and has been agreed fully by all involved."
Do all foster children get to see their birth families?
"On some occasions, there is no family time for children, this is quite rare as many looked after children will continue to have family time with their birth family to ensure they maintain their relationships and identity whilst being cared for by their fostering families. If a child has no family time in their plan, this can be for several reasons, such as, it is deemed not in the best interests of the child to maintain the relationship with that person, there is a known risk which could not be managed in the best interests of the child, the child may refuse to see their family or family may disengage from the family time plan. However, the majority of children will maintain links to their birth family via family time and the role of a foster carer is integral in family time to ensure the best possible outcome for children."
How often does the child see their birth family?
"Decisions around family time, who is involved, frequency, and if supervision is required or not is generally decided by the social worker for the child, sometimes within legal proceedings and sometimes agreed with the care team for the child. Every child will have a unique plan for family time with their birth family. This can vary greatly and takes into account considerations such as the plan for the child, the relationship between the child and the family, other significant people in a child’s life such as cousins, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and siblings who the child does not live with."
Ways foster carers can support birth family contact:
• Be transparent on the schedule for contact
• Have open conversations about their birth family
• Provide a safe environment for them to return to
• Talk to them about what they will be doing when they see their family
• Don’t be judgmental about their birth family, this could confuse the child and cause negative thoughts.
• Allow the child time alone after to process their meeting
If you think you can provide a safe and loving home, and support a foster child in having regular contact with their birth family, you can get in touch today by filling out a form or calling us on the number below.