Managing contact with birth families - a foster carer's view

As professional foster carers, we are challenged in many ways throughout our working lives. Not least how we manage contact with maternal birth family members.

The easy answer is conduct ourselves in a fit and proper manner with any members of the family allowed contact with a child or young person. In truth this can be difficult because no training can prepare you for the uncertainty and impact that this might have on a young person's state of mind post contact and placement.

However I do believe the relationship between birth parents and you as a carer can make or break contact. With us it was easy! When we first met C's birth mother I had a preconceived image in my head what she would be like. How wrong was I! Therefore stereotyping is not an option. It is too easy to do so when in fact, as in our case, the  opposite was the truth.

We found very quickly to our advantage that using her was an asset and made our job easy. Sharing information of mutual importance prior to contact allowed the contact to be managed appropriately with any challenging behaviour met head on post-contact. However I think the most important thing we did was humanise the person in front of C. Meaning that rather her being seen as some one who failed, she is some one who mattered.

We did this by exchanging mutual friendship in the shape of cuddles showing that Mum mattered to us therefore she mattered to C. In other words contact was good. Indeed as time went on we became friends and this greatly enhanced our ability to cope with contact and to have no fears of any form of undermining.

Obviously this approach will not suit all, as I can imagine there are families out there that have not had the same support and recognition of our part in the child's well being. However I believe that the closer that you can become to any foster child's birth family the more relaxed a young person maybe and therefore able to cope with some of the complex issues that surround being placed in care and taken away from the very people that they should feel most safest and secure with.

- M, Kasper foster carer