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Contact in Adoption Placements
Contact with birth family members and others of significance to the child will be an important consideration in care planning and must be reflected in the plan for the child. The overriding consideration in issues of contact between the child and birth family members or significant others must be the needs, welfare and safety of the child taking account of their wishes and feelings.
Contact must be considered primarily from the perspective of the child and should never be used as a bargaining tool or as a consolation to the birth family in adoption planning. Any contact arrangements which are made must be of direct benefit to the child and support that child in his or her new family.
Contact arrangements must be flexible enough to allow for the changing needs of all concerned, particularly the child as he or she grows. As the child develops and their needs change, so may their need for contact.All parties to an arrangement must be clear about the purpose and process of maintaining contact and of how such arrangements can be reviewed.
Special consideration should be given to maintaining contact between siblings who are being placed separately for adoption. Sibling relationships are usually the longest lasting of all relationships in an individual's life.
If contact is not being maintained then the reasons for this should be clearly explained and recorded.
Types of contact
Contact can be direct (i.e. face to face), or indirect (i.e. letters, cards, photos, etc.) which can be exchanged by agreement via the adoption letter box which is administered by the fostering and adoption team.
All such arrangements, whether direct or indirect, should be agreed between all parties concerned and that agreement recorded on the appropriate adoption letter box and direct contact forms which, once completed, will be held by the fostering and adoption team.
All contact arrangements after adoption, whether direct or indirect, will be co-ordinated by the fostering and adoption team.In certain cases, no contact at all may be in the best interests of the child.
The child's social worker should explain the contact arrangements clearly to the child, dependent on age and understanding, to birth relatives or significant others who are involved, and discuss and record any feelings or views that they may have.
Indirect contact Indirect contact via the adoption letter box is between the adults i.e. adoptive parents and birth family members. Adopted children and young people cannot use the letter box directly without the knowledge of their adoptive parents.
Any communication sent via the letter box which is outside the current written agreement will be held until the views of those to whom it has been sent have been ascertained.
All information sent via the letter box is opened and copied, and the child will have access to this information once they reach the age of 18.
Direct contact Direct contact is most likely to be successful where the birth parents:
- fully support the adoptive placement;
- have met the adoptive parents and endorsed their role as parents for their child;
- have been able to give the child permission to live with these particular adoptive parents;
- will agree to exchange up to date information as the child grows up;
- accept the change in role that they are likely to play in the life of their child;
- are unlikely to present a threat to the stability of the adoptive placement.
- Direct contact is most likely to be successful where the adoptive parents:
- can empathise with the birth parents and the situation which led to the child being looked after;
- have met the birth parents and can sustain a positive image of them;
- recognise the potential value to the child of maintaining contact with birth family members;
- feel entitled to parent the child;
- do not feel threatened by face to face contact arrangements with birth family members;
- The younger the child at the time of placement, the less likely that direct contact will be appropriate because their contact needs will primarily be for identity purposes and this can usually be met through indirect contact.
Contact issues will be an important part of the matching process with prospective adopters and their views about the plan should be recorded and taken into account.
The Court may also make orders in respect of contact but the most successful arrangements are those where all parties are in agreement and no order is required.
In making a recommendation, that a child should be placed for adoption, and also in making a recommendation about matching a child with specific adopters, the adoption and permanence panel may give advice about proposed contact arrangements. Details about proposals for contact should therefore be included in all reports to the adoption and permanency panel and included in any assessments and plans for adoption support.
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Indirect and Direct Contact Arrangements
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