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Maintaining contact with family

Maintaining contact with family

Carers can play a special role in keeping children connected to their family identity. Connecting a child with important people in their life - like elders and kin - can help a child to feel supported and to know their place within their family and culture.

Family is extremely important to all children and, regardless of how they come into care, most children want to return home. The Department of Children and Families helps children in care to stay connected with their birth family and other important people in their lives, regardless of whether or not the child will return home. The Department of Children and Families also supports children in care to do this in a way that is safe.

Contact between a child and their family is very important because it can help a child to maintain their identity and sense of belonging and to stay connected to their family and culture. It can also ease the pain of separation and loss and strengthen the relationship between the child and their family, especially when they are preparing for the child’s transition back home.

The best way for family contact visits to happen is worked out between the child, their family, the Case Manager and you, the carer. You may or may not be asked to assist with these visits through, for example, dropping a child off or picking them up. The agreed contact arrangements are set out in the case plan and cover things such as how often contact will occur, the location and length of the visits, transport arrangements and whether contact is to be supervised and by whom. Sometimes the court will make directions about contact. The Case Manager will talk this through with you.

Contact that is supervised

Sometimes contact with a parent could expose the child to an abusive or neglectful situation. One way of continuing access safely is to have another person supervise the visit. Where a child’s contact with their family needs to be supervised, it will be recorded in the case plan. In these situations the process of contact is facilitated, organised and arranged by the Case Manager.

Helping children with family visits

Family contact visits can be upsetting, sad and confusing for babies, children and young people, and they can experience a range of emotions before, during and after the visit. The following tips can help you understand and support the child:

  • The child could feel worried, nervous or excited. You can help by encouraging them to talk about how they’re feeling and remind them that you are there to help.               

  • There may be changes in the child’s behaviour before and after the visit, which can be due to many different reasons. You need to be patient and consistent; it may just take some time for the child to adjust. If you are concerned, you need to take note of the behaviours you are seeing and discuss this with the child’s Case Manager.              

  • Stay neutral and supportive of the visits and the child’s family – it could be upsetting for a child to hear negative things about their family.          

  • It is very important that you help the child to keep to family contact arrangements and, if you have any concerns, talk to the child’s Case Manager.

Other ways to stay connected

There are a number of other ways that children can keep connected to their families. These include:

  • letters, emails, texts, phone calls

  • sending photographs

  • attending cultural and family ceremonial events

  • participation of the child’s family in events that are significant for the child, such as school events, sporting events and birthdays.

You can talk to the child’s Case Manager about other ways you can support a child to keep in contact with their family.