Restarting of Face to Face Contact
Face to face contact between foster children and their relatives presents a number of risks to foster carers. Every foster carer must consider and evaluate the risk for themselves and their households individually. While most face to face contact was suspended during lockdown, there is now a move to reinstate it with the easing of restrictions.
Unlike current rules about schooling or the acceptance of new placements there is a legal order associated with contact, which both social work and foster carers must take into consideration. Many foster carers also see the vital importance of face to face contact for children and birth parents and are keen to support it. However, we strongly advise all foster carers to fully consider the risks face to face contact could pose and to ensure any agreements around the reinstatement of contact are provided in writing.
If you are approached to reintroduce face to face contact you may want to consider the following:
- The risk that poses to your health or that of others in your household. If you have an underlying health condition write to your social worker and the child’s social worker and explain why you are not able to support face to face contact at this time. Offer to continue to support virtual contact.
- Check the contact order – if it’s recently been renewed it might include a caveat about Covid-19 which gives flexibility to the requirement for face to face contact from a legal perspective.
- Asking for social work to provide you with a written agreement of how they will ensure all current government guidelines will be adhered to by everyone involved with contact – particularly if it is unsupervised. Ensure this covers all aspects such as transport, location, use of toilets or changing for infants, provision of food and drink and social distancing. You can also ask for a risk assessment to be done. Guidance is different for each part of the UK (England, Scotland, Wales and NI) – check your government’s website for the most current guidance.
- Asking for testing to be provided for relatives prior to contact if contact frequency is low (monthly for example) or there is evidence to suggest the relative has not been social distancing. Ask for a written agreement that contact will not proceed or revert to virtual contact if they test positive for Covid-19 or refuse to be tested.
- Agreeing in writing with your social worker what support (including financial) will be provided to you and your family if anyone in the household becomes ill with Covid-19 or what compensation will be paid in the event of death from Covid-19 as a result of infection due to contact.
If at any point there is mention of removing the child or the threat of panel or deregistration, do not enter into any further conversation. Advise social work that you need 24 hours to consider this information and that you will respond in writing and contact us immediately by email at email@example.com.
Many Foster Carer Workers are now facilitating contact via telephone or online apps. Tips to keep in mind are:
- Make sure the app or device you are using does not give others your phone number, email or location. Zoom is a good example, used with an email account set up specifically for this purpose.
- Ensure you, your supervising social worker and the child’s supervising social worker are clear about your role. Foster carers should not be expected to take on the role of supervising contact. If this is something that is normally done by a social worker or a contact supervisor they should be joining the call.
- If you are concerned in any way about facilitating video contact you should seek permission from social work and all parties on the call to record the call for record keeping (this can be done on Zoom – files must be renamed to save them securely)
- Be mindful of your environment – where calls are taking place, what can be seen and who else is around
- Ensure you maintain the confidentiality of other children in the home and that any unrelated children cannot be seen or heard in the background.