Wednesday, April 02, 2014


I don't really like talking about things in the news on this blog, I think these pages are more about the day-to-day human aspects of fostering.

But they've just announced that Parliament is bringing in a law to make it a criminal offence to emotionally abuse a child, and this might end up affecting everybody in fostering, on a day-to-day basis, and on a very human aspect of fostering.

At the moment a parent or carer can only be prosecuted in a criminal court for abusing a child either physically or sexually. 

Social workers can make a civil case that emotional abuse is ongoing, and a family court can then order the children are taken into care.

When that happens, that's when a foster carer gets a phone call asking if they can take a child. 

An emotionally abused child. Meanwhile the parents go free. 

Often the emotional abuse continues. At Contact. When the looked-after child is taken to meet their real parents there's no sanction to force the parents to treat their children properly. 

The parents don't physically abuse their children at Contact - the meetings are supervised.

But they continue the emotional abuse. 

Refusing to give love; or even a hug or a kiss, showing disdain for the child, showing no connection with the child, being intolerant, short-tempered, disdainful. Or worse.

I will always remember a child whose mother had told him many times that it was all his fault that the family was in shreds. I took him to meet her for Contact and she shunned him , didn't look him in the eye, or touch him. She mocked everything he did.

He's now in a secure unit.

Looked-after children often leave Contact is a terrible state, and the foster carers have to pick up the pieces.

Which we do.

I adore fostering, it's fantastic. If we can get these new laws right, fostering will be even better.

If the real parents of looked after children know that when they meet their children at Contact they must: love and cherish them, hug them, be interested in them, show them understanding and care, respect their achievements, join in their games, share their laughter, share their concerns


Things will improve for these poor mites.

I phoned the charity Action For Children who have been campaigning for this new law. They told me that any lobbying of the people who are drawing up the law would be useful.

So if you're a foster carer, and you agree with the idea of having the law against emotional abuse of children to include how the real parents of looked after children behave at Contact, please leave a comment at the bottom.

It might not be end end of Contact, but it could be the beginning of Contact doing the job it was intended for; building bridges between the real parents and their children.


  1. I'm not a foster carer but do wonder about fostering and do enjoy reading the blog. I find almost any post about 'Contact meetings' heartbreaking and would certainly do anything to support a law against emotional abuse! A parent is the one place where a child should be safe....not the person to break down such a vulnerable young person!

  2. I'm not a foster care, I'm a social worker in Child Protection and I agree with your wholeheartedly. In cases of emotional abuse, contact often makes matters worse for the child/children who are otherwise settling in as well as can be considering their circumstances in foster care. Often for the first time ever they have a measure of stability and security and contact often sets them back several steps.

    1. It's just a fact isn't it? Contact is so rigidly and unimaginably imposed. Let's hope the new legislation improves things.

  3. I really hope that the law is changed. The emotional scars run so much deeper than physical scars and take much longer to heal.