- / Procedures
- / Children living away from home
- / Adoption
- / Placing children with adopters
- / Contact in Adoption Placements
- / Direct Contact
Careful consideration should be given to the assessment of a child's need for contact.
It is usual for there to be on-going indirect contact between adopters and birth family members as current research indicates that this is potentially beneficial for children as they mature. The research is not so clear regarding direct contact, especially when there has been a history of abuse and/or neglect and where birth family is not supportive of the plan for adoption. With this in mind the assessment regarding direct contact should be very carefully made, ensuring its purpose is clearly defined and that direct contact is the only way of meeting the individual child's needs.
Where there is a sibling group, particularly where they are to be placed together, each child's needs should be assessed individually.
Direct contact arrangements must have been assessed to be in the child's best interests.
It is not appropriate for direct contact to take place between the child and their birth family unless the child's adoptive parent(s) are also included. In exceptional circumstances this may be reviewed. Direct contact, post adoption, must be seen as "different" to that which occurred when the child was "looked after".
An adoption order transfers parental responsibility to the adopter(s) and as such they need to retain the role, whilst at the same time acknowledging the child's needs to see birth family members.
Setting up Direct Contact Arrangements
An Initial Adoption Planning Meeting will be required once adoption is being considered as a potential permanence plan for the child.
The Meeting should take place as soon as possible after the fourth month LAC Review which considers adoption to be in the best interests of the child, and will include discussion around whether direct contact is considered appropriate if the child is placed for adoption.
Prior to the making of an adoption order the direct contact will be facilitated and supported by the child's social work. The arrangements post adoption will need to be considered and arranged accordingly, for example:
The venue for contact will be negotiated with the birth family and the adoptive parent(s) giving consideration to where the child may feel most comfortable.
Direct Contact Arrangements can Change
Plans need to remain child focused and this means that contact arrangements may vary over time based on the child's identified needs.In most circumstances the direct contact service will cease to offer support when a child reaches the age of 18 years, except where they are part of a sibling group and younger siblings continue to have direct contact. When the youngest child reaches the age of 18 this support will be reviewed.
The Department is responsible for the assessment of the child's contact needs.
The Department is also responsible for ascertaining the views of all involved and reporting those views within the child's permanence report.In relation to direct contact arrangements the Department will continue to support and facilitate contact until an adoption order has been granted in accordance with these procedures.
Direct contact post adoptions
To be considered at the initial adoption planning meeting stage.
Checklist for consideration
At the time adoption becomes the care plan:
- Assess the contact needs of each individual child.
- Consider previous contacts and the birth family members attitude towards adoption, assess their understanding and whether they would support to seek to undermine an adoptive placement.
- If direct contact is considered to be in the child's best interest, determine the people to be included, the frequency and general timing of such contact. Consider whether it is appropriate for direct contacts to take place at emotive times of the year, for example birthdays or Christmas. Do not be swayed by the wishes of the birth parents, be clear about what is in the child's best interest.
- It should always be borne in mind that if direct contact is part of the plan, then confidentiality of the placement may at some time be compromised.
- Consider what is the purpose of the contact, the child's wishes and ability to cope with this and both the practical and emotional support necessary for all parties in order to facilitate the contact.
- If there are other children involved, be clear about their involvement and understanding of the purpose of contact.
- Birth family members who are to be included will need to have direct contact explained carefully to them-they need to know the purpose of the contact i.e. that it is for the child and will have to be reviewed and remain flexible in order to continue to meet a child's changing needs over time.
- Direct contact should not be contemplated without the presence of the adoptive parents, this is intended to try to avoid the child feeling split between birth and adoptive parents.
- Consider the need for a direct contact agreement between all parties in order to define the boundaries for all parties.
If contact requires supervision by a social worker over a long period, consideration will need to be given to the appropriateness of such a plan.
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