How can we maintain contact between parents and children even when children do not live at home?

Judit Németh-Almasi's picture
14 Jan 2015 -- Judit Németh-Almasi

Unless it is not safe to do so, children should almost always be given the opportunity to maintain contact with significant people in their lives (such as their parents, grandparents and siblings).  We should never underestimate the loss that children can experience from losing touch with important people in their lives, even if those people have not always treated children well. 

An exception to this might be in the case of adoption (but there is a trend for ‘open adoption’ where children still have limited opportunities to be in contact with significant people) or where the plan is for the child not to return home at some point and there is a concern that by remaining in contact with parents etc it might make it difficult for children to form relationships with their new carers and settle. Where there is a possibility for children to return home then attempts should always be made to promote contact.  If not, it will be harder to reestablish the relationship once the child returns home and as a result the return may fail.  

The degree and frequency for contract will depend on the age and development of the child, as well as the circumstances of the case.  In the case of babies and small children then very frequent contact (3 times per week or more face to face at least) will be needed to help the parents bond with the child and the child become attached to the parents.

Contact can be maintained both face to face, such as through visits etc, and also remotely – for example by phone, letter and email.  Photographs and videos can also be shared.  The effort required to organise and support contact may be enormous and this needs to be taken into account when setting up arrangement for contact (especially if the child is not living locally or the meetings need to be supervised by a worker).

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