Maintaining good relationships can matter more than anything else for children in care. In contrast, damage to children can occur when strong relationships are broken, against their wishes. The Fostering Network believes that children and their former foster carers should be supported to maintain contact where it is deemed to be beneficial to the child.
The Fostering Network agrees with the conclusion of the Care Inquiry that relationships are the "golden thread" running through a child's life. These relationships may be multiple and diverse.
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. Maintaining good relationships can matter more than anything else for children in care. In contrast, damage to children can occur when strong relationships are broken, against their wishes.
Foster carers provide stable environments and secure attachments for children in short-term and long-term placements. Yet too often we hear from foster carers who have been unable to maintain relationships with a former fostered child, despite the child wanting to stay in touch.
Often the reason for this is cited as being "in the child's best interests", with a belief that seeing previous foster carers can be "unsettling" and potentially unhelpful to the new fostering placement. Yet many children who do not grow up in care manage complex and shifting family relationships. It makes no sense that fostered children are treated so differently, and their relationships are persistently broken when they are moved to new carers.
There is also an implicit contradiction between training foster carers in the importance of attachment and about the need for foster carers to show affection, and then denying the significance of the attachment between a foster carer and child the moment the child moves on.
Foster carers have a crucial role to play in supporting children as they move on, whether this is a move home or a move to a permanent placement. They cannot do this if they are prevented from having any contact.
The Fostering Network’s view
The Fostering Network believes that foster carers and young people must be supported to develop positive and strong bonds and be encouraged and enabled to maintain contact once they no longer live together.
- We call on the UK's governments to ensure that guidance and regulations require that children and young people in care are enabled to remain in contact with their former foster carers and that foster carers are enabled to support their former fostered children as they move home, move to a permanent placement, or move into and through the leaving care process.
- Local authorities and health and social services trusts must ensure that this happens, challenging the prevailing culture where necessary.
When and where local authorities and independent fostering providers are inspected, proper attention should be paid by the inspectors as to how these relationships are being built and supported for children and young people in care.
We are campaigning to ensure recognition of the importance of continuing the relationship between fostered children and their former foster carers and to enable those relationships to be maintained where it is deemed to be beneficial to the child. Find out more about our Keep Connected campaign.