Fostered children are being prevented from staying in touch with some of the most important people in their lives, according to a new report from the UK’s leading fostering charity.
Not Forgotten: The importance of keeping in touch with former foster carers, published today by The Fostering Network, reveals that despite the recognition of the importance of relationships in the lives of children in foster care, more than half of foster carers feel they have no support in maintaining relationships with the children and young people who have moved on from their care; and one in four have been actively prevented from keeping in touch, most frequently by the local authority/trust, fostering service or adoptive parents.
Among the report’s recommendations is a call for local authorities and trusts to support and encourage contact between children and their former foster carers and other significant people in their lives.
Chief executive of The Fostering Network, Kevin Williams, said: ‘It’s especially important to prioritise relationships in foster care because it is common for fostered children to move homes, for example to other foster carers, adoptive families or wider family members, or to return home. But our report shows that all too often their contact with the former foster family – who they may have lived with for many years – is cut off immediately.
‘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.
'An approach that too often, without reason, ends children’s important relationships is one that is not fit for purpose.’
The report highlights that the outdated theory – stating that bonds between children and their carers can only be formed one at a time, and that children should therefore break ties with their former foster family in order to bond with others – is still being used to make decisions about ongoing relationships. Research now suggests that such an approach is damaging and that having a close bond with an adult makes it easier for a child to form future bonds which aids their development and improves their wellbeing.
The report also emphasises that stable ongoing relationships are particularly crucial for children in care who may have faced instability. Tommy’s foster carer, featured in the report, was prevented from seeing him when he moved to another foster family which she says has ‘irreparably damaged’ their relationship. She says: ‘It breaks my heart that I’m being stopped from giving this little boy experiences and showing him that he is still loved.’
Williams said: ‘Having these relationships severed can leave children and young people with a sense of loss and compound previous instances of perceived rejection.
‘Ending these relationships also affects the fostering family, who may have lived with the children for many months or years. As well as feeling loss, foster carers and their families may also experience profound guilt that the child feels abandoned or forgotten by them.
‘This is why we are calling for it to become the expectation that the relationship between children and their former foster families, as well as other significant people in the lives of children, will be supported and encouraged.’
The Not Forgotten report is part of The Fostering Network’s Keep Connected campaign.