Lizzie & Shaun- Our experiences with family contact in foster care
01 December 2023
01 December 2023
Family contact is determined for the best interests of the child, as well as the capacity of all those involved to cope emotionally with the arrangements. The arrangement may change over time and is reviewed regularly. Foster carers have a crucial role to play in supporting contact and are supported by their social worker.
Contact time can be beneficial for children in terms of maintaining links with their family and their sense of identity. However, it can also be problematic and be a difficult and traumatising experience for many children and young people within foster care. Dealing with contact time can be a familiar concept for many foster carers however has to be done by order of the courts. Lizzie and Shaun explain how they find creative ways to help the children with family contact throughout their 35 years of fostering.
With 3 boys currently in placement aged 17, 6, and 5 years old. Lizzie explains the younger siblings often find this traumatising, so once home they will use fun role-play to cheer them up as they love superheroes.
‘We often distract their minds away from the horrors of evoked memories that come with contact with their parent and hit on the concept of dressing up. One Batman, one Spider-Man costume later and the mindset of these two little ones shifted to brighter happier things. I arrange for them to summon their superpowers and save the farmer.’
'As Martin arranges an accident so that the boys can be the hero, Lizzie explains the boys were fully engaged ‘One furiously flicking his wrists, whizzing out imaginary webs the other oh so pleased there was a breeze and his cape was flapping and off they set, with me loudly saying “oh I think I can hear a cry for help”. So, the two little boys ran around the farm looking for the source of the distressed call and found Martin trapped under a farm gate. The boys squeal with excitement, I’ll tie my web and pull, I’ll use my x-ray vision and burn it. Finally, we get him out, and the boys are off, in the arms of the big kids, flying, arms outstretched like superhero’s.’
Lizzie explains that their now daughter hadn’t bonded with her birth mum. She came to them at the age of 13 months with 2 of her siblings after suffering some of the worst abuse Lizzie and Shaun had seen. Lizzie spoke about family contact and explained
‘We were on a friendly basis, and all used to go out for dinner for the siblings to have contact with their mum but our daughter started to fit on the way to contact. We tried to change the route, the location, everything, but she would only fit when she was going to contact’. Lizzie and Shaun managed to get the local authority to agree to not have contact for a month to see if the fits would stop. Lizzie says ‘A month later contact took place again and she had another fit, so we knew the reason and after going to court, her birth mum asked if we would adopt her. When the girl was 4 years old the adoption went through, she is now 16 years old and doing really well.’
Whether contact is face to face or in other forms of communication, sibling contact, supervised or unsupervised contact, it is important for foster carers to promote positive contact time.
Read The Fostering Network’s top tips for foster carers regarding their role in promoting positive contact here.
01 December 2023