Becky spent her teenage years living with Blue Sky foster carers Charlotte and Martyn. She now works for Blue Sky, supporting young people in our care as an individual worker. Contact can be a challenging time for foster children, here’s Becky’s advice based on her experience as a foster child.
“Contact” is mentioned a lot in the world of fostering. It’s when a young person who lives in foster care has a scheduled meeting with their birth family. This could be parents, siblings, or extended family.
Contact with birth family can be court ordered, or might be something the birth family and young person need to work towards.
It can vary for each situation, but may be fully supervised (for example, in a chosen setting, with professionals who are involved in the case present) or not supervised at all. Whilst these times can be exciting for looked after young people, it can also be scary and can often bring a lot upset and guilt.
For contact that is court ordered, it can sometimes be difficult for young people to have a say in whether it goes ahead. Some young people may not feel able to express that they don’t feel ready to see their birth family. As you can imagine this can be a very difficult time.
As a previously looked after child myself, when having contact with my birth Mum as a young person I would often have various feelings of guilt.
I would find it distressing to see my Mum and not be able to help her. I would then feel more guilt when returning to my foster home, which was a happy and homely place to be. I struggled to understand why I was able to have this, but my Mum could not.
Following contact, the biggest thing I felt was guilt. I struggled as a child with why I deserved the lifestyle I was being given.
My foster family (who are Blue Sky foster carers) supported me hugely with this. They would always ensure that I was aware that whether I went to contact or not was up to me, and it would always be at my pace.
Charlotte and Martyn always gave me a lot of space when returning from contact, and gave me time to process the time I had spent with my Mum. My foster family never spoke badly about my Mum, I always felt they were on my side and would support all my decisions.
Overall, I feel as though some contact can be good for some looked after young people. However, due to my own personal experiences, and my job working with looked after children, I also know how distressing and difficult it can be.
If foster parents can give constant support and time, they can help looked after children through these times, and in my own experience they are likely to be grateful for this support when they are older.