The Purpose of Contact in Permanence


This chapter was developed/entirely revised in September 2012 and should be read in full.

This chapter is currently under review.

Contact arrangements should centre on the benefits for the child, whilst acknowledging the adult's wishes and feelings and meeting these as far as is consistent with promoting the child's welfare.

Contact may be of singular importance to the long-term welfare of the child:

  1. In giving the child the security of knowing that their parent care about them and are interested in their welfare;
  2. By avoiding any damaging sense of loss to the child in seeing themselves abandoned by their parents;
  3. By enabling the child to commit themselves to the substitute family with the seal of approval of the natural parents; and
  4. By giving the child the necessary sense of family and personal identity. Contact, if maintained and is positive, is capable of reinforcing and increasing the chances of success of a permanent placement, whether on a long-term fostering basis or by adoption.

Function of Contact

Direct or indirect contact, with birth parents and/ or relatives or carers and significant others may serve a number of different functions for the child, varying over time by:

  • Enabling a child to develop a realistic understanding of the circumstances leading to separation (this may be particularly relevant in the case of parents who have learning difficulties or who experience mental distress);
  • Enabling a child to grieve their loss;
  • Enabling a child to move on and develop an attachment to new carers with the blessing of their parents;
  • Reassuring a child that the birth parents or other relative continue to care about the child which may enhance then child's self-esteem;
  • Promoting stability in a new or existing placement by providing continuity and enabling connections to maintained;
  • Reassuring a child about the well being of birth relatives, especially siblings, whether they are living with birth relatives or in an alternative family;
  • Providing an opportunity for an adopted child or young person to gain more knowledge and understanding about his or her personal and family history and cultural background;
  • Maintaining a flow of communication which could facilitate direct, perhaps face to face contact in the near future if this requested of agreed by the adopted person.