The Fostering Network is calling on everyone - including governments, social work professionals, fostering services, foster carers and adopters - who plays a part in enabling children and young people to move within, or out of, the care system to support them to maintain their most important relationships.
This is the message behind our campaign, Keep Connected: Maintaining Relationships When Moving On.
About the campaign
Moving on in foster care – to adoption, back home or to wider family, to another foster family, to residential care or to adulthood – is a time for a proper ending, not a forever goodbye, as abrupt endings are likely to lead to separation and loss issues for the child.
What we know about attachment in terms of transitions is very different from thinking 20 years ago. Previously it was believed that a child should be supported in transferring their attachment from one set of carers to another – old attachments would be replaced by a new attachment. Now, it is widely held that an important role of the foster carer is to support a child to develop a strong internal working model (incorporating resilience, confidence, selfesteem, problem solving abilities) and because of this children are capable of developing additional secure attachments.
This change in understanding is critical to the role that foster carers play in supporting a child in the transition to their new family or living arrangements, and advocates a need for the supportive and positive presence of the foster carers throughout and beyond the transition process. While there will be some occasions when it is not in a child’s best interests to keep in contact with their previous foster families or others, these will be the exception rather than the rule. We need a culture shift to ensure that the starting position in any transition planning is for ongoing contact.
We are calling on the UK’s governments to develop guidance and regulations to help fostering services support the bond between foster carer and child as they move to another home.
For updates on this campaign and all our other campaigning, email our campaigns team.
For four years Kerry has fostered babies and toddlers with her husband.
'Just before Christmas, sisters Emma and Leah came to us aged two and three. In the months that followed, the girls started to feel secure and built a stable attachment to us. Everyone was positive about our care and the progress the children were making.
'We knew the children better than anyone, but we had no opportunity to input into the transition plan [when they were moving to adopters]. We didn’t feel it was a child-led process and there had been little thought given to contact with their other siblings, which has had a lasting impact on the older brothers and sisters.
'After a week of the transition in my home, I drove the girls 200 miles away to their new family. Despite promises of ongoing FaceTime and visits, that was the last time I saw them.
'My whole family was devastated by this experience, we questioned whether we could continue to foster and risk putting our own children through this trauma again.'
Not Forgotten: The importance of keeping in touch with former foster carers
Relationships are the golden threads that run through children’s lives. A support network of people who know a child well helps them to feel loved, develop a strong sense of self and maintain healthy relationships in the future. However, our most recent State of the Nation's Foster Care Survey revealed a lack of support to enable foster carers to keep in touch with children after they move on and that in too many cases they had been prevented from doing so. We hope the Not Forgotten report will create lasting change in the way that local authorities and fostering services plan and support contact between children and their former foster carers.
If you've been affected by these issues, sharing your experience can help us to understand the problems.
Keep Connected: Maintaining Relationships When Moving On research report
This report outlines the findings of research undertaken by The Fostering Network on children and young people maintaining relationships with their former foster carers, and makes recommendations on how Governments in the UK can improve the current situation. Good relationships help to build trust, and help children create a sense of belonging and identity. All children need to understand their past and to build confidence in their ability to sustain relationships in the future.
Keep Connected Principles
The Fostering Network has developed a set of principles, in consultation with foster carers, fostering services and organisations in the care sector, including those working with young people, to shape how transitions from and within the care system are approached across the UK. The aim is for all children and young people who are moving on from foster families to be enabled to keep in touch with them – and with other significant people in their lives – through better understanding of the importance of this, planning and support.
The principles were written with support from Action for Children, Become, NAFP, NAIRO, Article 39 and BASW.
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Listen to the podcast
We discuss our Keep Connected campaign and hear from a foster carer about her attempt to keep in contact with her former fostered child. We also talk to two social workers, who were themselves in foster care, about the extent to which care experienced children are encouraged to maintain their important relationships when they move on.