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9.1 Contact with Parents and Siblings


Contents

  1. Scope
  2. Approving and Planning Contact
  3. Supervised Contact
  4. Cancellation of Contact
  5. Review of Contact Arrangements
  6. Suspension or Termination of Contact


1. Scope

1.1 This chapter applies to arrangements for children placed in foster and residential care to have contact with their parents and siblings.
1.2 For arrangements for social visits and overnight stays away with friends which staff/carers may agree, see Social Visits and Overnight Stays with Friends Procedure.


2. Approving and Planning Contact

2.1 Looked After children must be encouraged and supported to maintain contact with their parents, any person who holds Parental Responsibility, other significant family members and siblings in a manner consistent with the child’s CLA Plan; which, itself, must take account of any Child Protection Risk Action Plan or Contact Order that may be in force.
2.2 Contact between children and their parents or siblings may only be permitted if previously agreed by the social worker and must be set out in the child’s Placement Plan.
2.3 The purpose of the contact and how it will be evaluated must be made clear in the Plan.
2.4 Both direct and indirect contact arrangements must always be clearly detailed, setting out how contact will take place, the venue, the frequency and how the arrangements will be reviewed.
2.5 Before a Looked After child - whether Accommodated or the subject of a Care Order, has overnight contact with his or her parents or siblings, is to take place, the approval of the Team Manager/Head of Statutory Social Work Services is required.
2.6 Where contact is extended as part of a plan to gradually return the child to the parents’ care, the Placement with Parents Procedure must be followed.


3. Supervised Contact

3.1 The need to supervise contact must be considered as part of the assessment and planning process by the social worker and his/her manager. It is the responsibility of the child’s social worker to ensure that the person(s) supervising contact is appropriately skilled and experienced to do so.
3.2 The primary focus of the assessment of this issue will be the safety and welfare of the child.
3.3 Where supervised contact is deemed necessary, the reasons must be clearly recorded and the role of the supervisor or supervisors clearly defined.
3.4 A written risk assessment must be completed before supervised contacts begin.
3.5

This assessment must take account of all factors that could impact on the success of supervised contact and relevant safeguards including:

  • Any history of abuse or threats of abuse to the child, Carers or staff;
  • Previous incidents of disruption or threats to disrupt contact or failure to cooperate with conditions agreed for supervised contact;
  • Previous incidents or threats of abduction;
  • Previous incidents of coercion or inappropriate behaviour during contact;
  • The transient or unsettled lifestyle of the parents, as opposed to long-standing local connections;
  • The child’s behaviour and needs, including medical needs.
3.6 Where any of the above features in the risk assessment, and supervised contact is to continue, the risk assessment must state the specific measures to be put in place to minimise risks. The assessment must then be approved and signed by the social worker's team manager.
3.7 Where supervised contact takes place, the detailed arrangements for the supervision must be set out in the Placement Plan.
3.8

In addition, there must be a written agreement with the parents and other parties having supervised contact, signed by them, which must state clearly any specific conditions relating to the contact and any expectations placed on the parents: 

  • The agreement must be clear about where the contact must take place and whether any flexibility is allowed for activity or movements within or away from the agreed location;
  • It must also be clear about whether the person(s) having contact are permitted to give the child food, drinks, gifts or money during contact;
  • It must state clearly the circumstances in which contact will be terminated.
3.9 Social workers must make sure that locations chosen for contact can accommodate any restrictions set down. In more risky situations, those organising and supervising contact might want to choose locations where early and easy contact can be made with other parties or agencies such as the Police. 
3.10

In some cases prior contact with the Police must agree prearranged responses in the event of problems emerging:

  • The agreement must state the adults who will be allowed to attend for supervised contact and supervisors must be asked to apply that strictly;
  • Particular attention must be given to when and how visits are ended. It is probably best that all “goodbyes” take place indoors with the visitors asked to leave before supervisors return children to their placements;
  • Significant changes to Care Plans, Court proceedings and/or decisions made about the frequency of future contact are all likely to be potential tension points so extra vigilance must apply at any contacts arranged around these times.
3.11 The staff/carers and any other person involved in the supervision of the contact must have copies of the Placement Plan and the agreement with the parents. For more information if the child is placed with the Supervised Contact Centre, please see relevant information provided by Family Action.
3.12 Where possible, those supervising the contact must be known to the child and the family before the supervised contact takes place.
3.13 In the event of problems emerging, the supervisors must be clear who to contact (including ‘reserve options’) and what details they will need to share. 
3.14 The supervisor’s observations of the contact must be clearly recorded in the child’s record and shared with the parents.
3.15

The supervisor must immediately report to the social worker any concerns about the parents’ conduct during the contact. The social worker in consultation with his/her manager must consider the need to review the risk assessment and/or the contact arrangements in light of the concerns expressed.

See Section 5, Review of Contact Arrangements.

See Section 6, Suspension or Termination of Contact.


4. Cancellation of Contact

4.1 Contact must never be cancelled unless there is a very good reason, for example it is deemed that it would not be safe for it to take place or the child is too unwell for it to take place. Contact must take place in accordance with the child’s Placement Plan, Court Order and any Court Directions. 
4.2 Wherever possible, the staff/carer must consult the child’s social worker in advance if they consider there is a good reason to cancel the contact. 
4.3 If contact is cancelled, the social worker or, if the social worker is not available, the staff/carer must ensure that the child and, as far as practicable, the parent is informed in advance and that the reason for the decision is explained. The social worker or staff/carer must arrange an alternative contact.  
4.4 If contact does not take place and consultation has not been possible with the social worker, the staff/carer must inform the child’s social worker as soon as possible and confirm in writing the decision to cancel and the reason.
4.5 See Section 6, Suspension or Termination of Contact. 
4.6 NB: Contact arrangements must not be withdrawn as a Sanction imposed on a child.


5. Review of Contact Arrangements

5.1 The social worker and his/her manager must keep contact arrangements, including the continuing need for supervision, under regular review.
5.2 The arrangements must also be reviewed in any Placement Planning Meeting and at the child’s CLA Review.
5.3 Any contact arrangements which are agreed as a result of new friendships formed during the child’s placement must be included in the Placement Plan.
5.4 The risk assessment in relation to the arrangements for supervising contact must be reviewed at least every six months, or sooner, if any incident or report identifies concerns.
5.5 Where the child is the subject of a Child Protection Risk Action Plan, the contact arrangements must also be reviewed as required in the plan itself.
5.6 Where a Contact Order is in force and it is considered that the contact arrangements set out in the Order must be altered, the agreement of the child and the parents must be sought and legal advice must be obtained as to the need to seek a variation of the Court Order.


6. Suspension or Termination of Contact

6.1 Where it is considered that the child’s contact with the parents must be suspended or terminated, the social worker must be consulted and legal advice must be obtained.
6.2 Any proposal to suspend or terminate the contact must be considered as part of the child’s CLA Review, unless the circumstances require an urgent decision to be made. Any such proposal must be made in the context of the overall aims and objectives of the CLA Plan.
6.3 Even where it is not possible to hold a CLA Review because of the urgency of the situation, the reasons for the proposal must be explained to the parents and to the child, and their agreement obtained if possible.
6.4 Where the proposal is to suspend the contact, the length and purpose of the suspension together with the basis upon which contact will be reinstated must be made clear.
6.5 The approval of the Head of Statutory Social Work Services must be obtained to any proposal to suspend or terminate contact.
6.6 Where the child is the subject of an Emergency Protection Order, Interim Care Order or full Care Order, an application to the Court for authority to terminate contact will always be necessary if contact is to be suspended for more than 7 days. As soon as such a decision is made, Legal Services must be contacted as a matter of urgency so that the necessary Court action can be initiated.
6.7 Written confirmation of the decision made and, where relevant, the intended Court application, together with the reasons, must be sent to the parents, child (depending on age) and any other relevant person (for example the child's Advocate, or Children’s Guardian). Staff/carers and other agencies involved with the child’s care must also be informed.

End