When child protection or safeguarding concerns come to light local authorities have a legal duty to investigate these and sometimes make decisions to place children in foster placements until a full assessment is carried out and final decisions made. The Family Courts are usually involved in making these decisions. When children are placed into foster care the local authority in that area has a statutory obligation under section 34 of the Children Act 1989 to promote contact between children and their parents and relevant others where this is deemed in the best interest of the child.
Contact is very important in maintaining family links and promoting a positive self-image for the child. Contact ensures that children staying away from the family home still feel a part of their family and its important that Social Workers and Foster Carers do everything possible to ensure that regular contact is maintained.
Impact Family Services has contracts with 3 local authorities to support them in providing contact arrangements for looked after children; in Redcar & Cleveland, Sunderland and Durham.
Contact usually takes place in children’s services buildings across the council areas and sometimes in the community. Contact can either be in groups or a single family session. Parents, siblings, grandparents and extended family members can be involved in the contact, at the discretion of the social worker, who considers what are the best interests of the child.
The contact involves our Family Contact Workers picking children up from school or carers and bringing them to a contact centre/community to meet with parents/siblings and other family members. The worker then observes and monitors the contact before returning the children back to carers. A short report is then prepared for the social worker.
Contact arrangements will:
- Be in line with the child’s care plan.
- Support the child in their current placement and will promote stability of the placement.
- Directly benefit the child, promoting their welfare and will keep them safe.
- Be flexible, due to the changing needs of the child.
- Be managed and reviewed with all changes made, agreed by the Authority, Provider, children, carers and parents.
- Not be used as a bargaining tool. Contact is the right of the child.
- Be in line with directives made by family courts. Every effort will be made to fulfil these obligations.
The organisation of the local authority child contact arrangements is administered from our Sunderland office and you can contact them on 0191 567 8282.