Thursday, December 06, 2012

CONTACT - WHAT DO WE THINK?

This comment was added today by a new reader:

"I have just discovered your blog and am so pleased. I have thought about doing it myself but with 3 kids all very young in placement plus my own teenager the time is never there! I have tried really hard to get contact stopped for my little ones as the family brutally abused in every way and the psychological trauma is reawakened esp for one child in a dramatic fashion. The Guardian felt 'the children enjoy contact' having observed one session... I despaired although many months later it is being reduced. I will read all the other posts when time permits"
.
Firstly, thank you for finding a moment to add your comment. I totally agree about how hard it is to find time for anything outside the bubble of our own placements, our family, and ourselves.

Also, I totally sympathise with your general concerns about Contact. 

Talking to other foster carers, I find an almost universal frustration that Contact could be so much more valuable than it currently is.

My sympathies also go out to the professionals who are required to uphold the 1989 Law, which quite rightly, made reunification the priority, and states, as I understand it:
  • The Act imposes a new duty to promote contact between a child being looked after and those with whom he or she has a significant relationship.
However it also stipulates:

  • Contact must also be offered in accordance with children's developmental needs and take account of their wishes and feelings.
  • The aims for contact should be clearly identified and integrated into the care plan. Contact aims should have clearly stated and measurable objectives that identify:
  1. the identity of visitors and the timing, frequency and venue for contact;
  2. the arrangements for indirect contact;
  3. the carer's role in contact
  4. the social worker's role - in supporting parents, carers and child, and;
  5. the services required to support the contact plan.
Research shows that the following factors are key to successful reunification;
  1. a good attachment between parents and child
  2. a well motivated parent who is willing to change and seek help
  3. purposeful contact aimed at improving the parent-child relationship
  4. contact that is a positive experience, with the child responding well to increased contact

Here's what I think has gone slightly wrong with a perfectly well intentioned initiative: people have got their heads around the bits that are clear and easy to validate. So contact happens, because it must. The time and place and the names of the visitors, you can write it up easy using names, places and numbers. The bits that are hard to validate and quantify have been a bit ignored. How do you "measure" the carer's role? Or children's wishes and feelings? You have to use language and personal judgement; "He got very, sort of, angry, well, livid really, for about an hour and then again for oooh, about another hour, at bedtime, and I think it was because he remembered all the things his parents did to him."  This can never be as unequivocal as recording "Contact took place between child BS, his mother HS, from 4.00pm to 5.00pm on Thursday 22nd, at McDonald's, supervised by Ms PH"

As for "a well motivated parent who is willing to change and seek help", well, shall we come back to that one another day?

Above all; there is a bit of the Act that's missing, and it's the bit that the comment above is partly referring to. Namely, the impact of Contact on the foster home. I couldn't find a single reference to it in the Act. Maybe I need to try harder or something, but as far as I can see, there is no provision for balancing the child's needs, and the priority of reunification against the toll that Contact takes on the people without whom there would be no system; you and me. Oh, and our other halves, our children and friends ("you're looking a bit rough lately"). And, just for the record, my dog, who is still on sedatives.

My own suggestions  to make Contact more valuable are as follows:

At Blue Sky we have a directive to record the impact of Contact on the child. Foster Carers must lay it out, on the line.

We should record the wider impact of the child's reaction on the foster home.

Foster carers should get clear guidelines from Local Authority Social Workers on how Contact is aimed at working towards the child's successful outcome.

We carers should press that the parents are receiving support and guidance in how to achieve reunification, and above all, how they behave at Contact. The parents  should be supportive of the fostering, recognise they got things wrong: maybe apologise to the child for the things that have gone wrong, things they did wrong.

One Foster Carer said to me "Contact? I feel like I'm just a taxi driver, to be honest."

Yeah, but then afterwards, what? 

A firefighter.

The Secret Foster Carer






5 comments:

  1. I would like to pick up on a few points in the above blog if i may.

    " I have tried really hard to get contact stopped for my little ones" This comment is very disturbing as it implies that these children "belong" to this foster carer, when in fact foster carers are just caretakers of these children while proceedings are ongoing, or if proceedings are over and the child is in long term foster care, then once again the carer is just a caretaker, yes i agree that the child should be treated the same as the foster carers own biological children, but they are not their children.

    "Namely, the impact of Contact on the foster home. I couldn't find a single reference to it in the Act. Maybe I need to try harder or something, but as far as I can see, there is no provision for balancing the child's needs, and the priority of reunification against the toll that Contact takes on the people without whom there would be no system; you and me. Oh, and our other halves, our children and friends"

    In the above comment all i see is someone who made a choice to get into fostering is putting their needs above the needs of the child who had no choice in being placed with them in the first place. If you do not want to do the job (because that is all it is) then don't do it, but then i know that the financial rewards paid to Foster carers is much better than most other career paths, and i also know that this does play a huge part in the choice to become a foster carer.

    Then the last paragraph:
    "We carers should press that the parents are receiving support and guidance in how to achieve reunification, and above all, how they behave at Contact. The parents should be supportive of the fostering, recognize they got things wrong: maybe apologize to the child for the things that have gone wrong, things they did wrong."

    While i agree that birth parents should have and often do need support, guidance and often counseling, all of the above are not available to birth parents, also while i agree that there are cases where birth parents have got things wrong and where children should be in care, there are large amount of birth parents who have done absolutely nothing wrong, but due to whatever reason dreamed up by the authorities they have had their children taken from them and placed into care, this traumatizes the children as well as the parents for no legitimate reason and foster carers need to keep a neutral stance and as per the law NOT interfere in contact unless the child is in immediate danger.

    The whole tone of all of the above blog tells me that Foster carers need to find out the facts as to why that child is with them and not just take the word of the social worker that the parents are bad parents in order to help the child they need to educate themselves about the child's background and situation and not blindly follow the social services lead.

    I am fully aware that what i am writing will probably be deleted but i did feel the need to comment and i can back up everything i have said with hard evidence.

    I sincerely hope that this post is not deleted.

    Signed: An Innocent Parent



    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As a foster carer I would like to inform the previous poster that far from doing this "job" for the "huge financial rewards" I am actually paid far, far less than the minimum wage. The £122 I receive a week barely covers the essentials of nappies, milk, constant heating and petrol for the daily 30 mile round trips to our "local" contact centre. Also bear in mind that it was a requirement of my approval that I give up the much better better paying Job I already had before I was approved to foster - most foster carers are required to be at home all day for their foster children.

      Believe me, there are lots and lots of easier jobs I could do for much more money.

      Delete
  2. I am not a foster carer or an 'innocent parent' but I do work with disadvantaged kids and see first hand progress made when some of the kids have the stability of foster care. I would politely suggest that money is one of the last things on the mind when someone considers fostering.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Money certainly was the last thing on our minds when we decided to do it- we just wanted to help out children and young people who were disadvantaged in some way.The problem is that we are not recognised as being 'professionals' - either by parents or those in authority.

      Delete
  3. As a Foster Carer I have always found it hard to talk to people about my job, the challenges it presents and the emotions it stirs. I find that people don't understand and how could they?! I sometimes feel like we live in a slightly different world.
    Everyone is entitled to their opinion and should be respected regardless but until they have walked a mile in a Foster Carers shoes they have no right to judge.
    PS I just worked out that I get 76p per hour

    ReplyDelete