Top 10 Tips for Contact and Family Time
Top 10 Tips for Contact and Family Time
Top Tips to help foster carers promote and support contact whilst safeguarding both the children and themselves
Promoting and supporting contact is part of our professional role
Remember that “promoting and supporting contact” is part of our professional role and contractual obligations that we sign up in our fostering agreement (contract).
Get to know the Statutory Regulations and National Minimum Standards that underpin us as professionals, so you can be confident and understand your role and the role of others.
- Sometimes we may not agree with contact arrangements
We don’t always agree with contact arrangements but we have to comply with them, again this is part of our professional role and contractual obligations in “Promoting and Supporting Contact”.
Never block a contact of any kind despite how much you disagree with it or find it distressing for yourselves or the child (see Top Tip number 10).
- Do not be pressurised into supervising contact
Foster carers have the choice of whether they wish to supervise contact or not. If it does not feel safe to do so or you feel it will be detrimental to the child then say no, there is no legal or contractual obligation for a foster carer to supervise contact, our role is to “promote” and “support” contact, not supervise it.
If you wish to supervise contact then you can (make sure all risk assessments and frameworks for contact are in place). However, as a foster carer, you are not a trained or qualified supervisor or contact worker, neither are you insured or protected when things go wrong. If you are asked to supervise contact it is ok to decline because of these reasons, do not under any circumstances be pressurised into it.
If you are asked and feel it is not appropriate, safe or in the interests of the child speak immediately to your supervising social worker. If you feel vulnerable in raising this seek help from independent representatives. Click here for our help page.
It is good practice to establish what contact arrangements are in place before a child is placed with you so you can decide whether you can do it or not and manage the expectations of providers.
- You do not have to have contact in your own home
As in the tip for not being pressurised into supervising contact if you feel it is not appropriate, the same goes for anyone requesting that you have contact in the fostering family home. Your home is a safe space for your children and young people and contact is not always appropriate in it, it is not in the child’s interest. Home is also your safe space.
- Report and record
As ever in fostering it is important that you report and record contact. It’s better to do it as soon as you can so everything is fresh in your mind. Make sure you stick to facts not opinions and be mindful that the children will likely read their records as young adults.
Contact books – For babies and younger children you will often have a contact book, especially for supervised contact at contact centres. This is so you can keep parents up to date with the baby or child’s developmental milestones, and recordings of other events. Make sure your entries are factual, and positive and avoid opinion-based statements.
Contact is a time when carers can be worried about allegations, this may be by the child in an attempt to break the placement in the hope they will be returned home, from birth families, wanting to undermine the stability of the placement and to assert some authority in what can feel like a powerless time. It can also come from social work staff if something has gone wrong, particularly if you were supervising contact and a complaint is made by a birth family.
What can you do? Keep meticulous records, time, date, factual not opinion. Make sure the contact is risk assessed by the social worker and get it in writing, do not agree to supervise contact if it does not feel right and also never agree to have contact in your own home unless, again, you feel it is appropriate.
Make sure you keep the relationship with the birth family professional and boundaried (see Top Tip 9).
Check that the allegations support, representation and casework you have in place is the right one for you, make an informed choice and don’t just rely on the one your provider supplies. Once an allegation has happened it’s too late to make sure you have the right cover. Find help and support for foster carers on FosterWiki page
- Keep learning, access good accredited and nationally recognised qualifications
To help understand the challenges and contact issues access good education around topics such as trauma, attachment issues and child-centred therapeutic care. Here are some accredited, nationally recognised and respected free courses for foster carers: DN College Group offers free accredited courses (subject to terms and conditions)
- Accept children’s feelings and do not have an opinion about their families
As foster carers, we try to ensure that we do not dismiss our children or young people’s feelings or discourage their feelings, about their parents or family, be accepting and non-judgmental. Also resist our instinct is to ‘fix’ it or try and cheer them up and change the subject. Sit with them, however hard that might be for us, listen and become attuned to their non-verbal emotional expressions as well as the verbal ones.
Try to never dismiss their family or disparage them in any way, even when the youngsters might be doing it themselves. We can only listen as they can love and hate their parents at the same time, never take sides, just listen and let them know we hear them and are there for them in whichever place they are in the dynamics of their family relationships.
- Build professional relationships with birth family
This relationship is absolutely key for both carer and child. Getting this right can also be challenging. You are aiming for a good professional working relationship, not a friendship, this is really important as befriending a birth parent or any extended family can cause serious
issues, particularly when it goes wrong, which it invariably can do given the dynamics of foster care.
, By all means, be friendly, but in a strictly professional and boundaried way.
- If you feel contact is having a negative impact
Children can often come home from contact distressed, angry, sad, feeling loss, or even guilt, some children can even think they are to blame for a parent’s distress or for being in care. It is an extremely complex time for them emotionally.
Sometimes carers feel older siblings are having a very negative affect on the children in their care. This can be so challenging for carers, the placement can feel undermined and the carers are often at a loss as to how to help the child or young person, it can be frustrating and disruptive if things had been going well.
If this is happening contact your supervising social worker, and then you can all discuss it with the child’s social worker and the team around the child. They will then take the appropriate action in terms of examining what is in the best interests of the child.
Information, Help and Support
Help and support created for foster carers, by foster carers, we are the experts by experience. We have the first foster carers knowledge bank.
Access both the open pages and members area. Both are free to access and footprint-free. The member’s area gives you privileged confidential access to FosterWiki’s experts by experience for advice and guidance. You will also find short courses and guides from the foster carer’s perspective, top tips, allegation help, templates, and the ability to add to FosterWiki. With more content being uploaded regularly.
Please let us know what information or advice pages you would find useful and we will put them in place. https://fosterwiki.com/register/