Lifelong connections for children in permanent care: What supports families to facilitate positive birth family contact?

Out of home care
Wednesday 25 July, 1440 – 1500


Associate Professor Amy Conley Wright
Institute of Open Adoption Studies, University of Sydney

Dr Susan Collings
Institute of Open Adoption Studies, University of Sydney

In New South Wales, an emerging policy for children in out-of-home care who cannot be restored to parents is permanency with lifelong birth family connections. Evidence suggests contact helps some children resolve attachment difficulties and feelings of loss; however, for others, it may have a detrimental effect. It can also present challenges for adults. The Institute of Open Adoption Studies has been established to build evidence-based practice, including guidance for caseworkers on how best to support birth and caregiving families with contact.

Focus groups were conducted with foster carers, kinship carers and adoptive parents (n=30) to explore their perspectives on how to create positive contact experiences for children, and how caseworkers can better support caregiving and birth families to build positive relationships.

Foster carers report that contact can be a source of considerable stress and there is a lack of consistency in the agency support available to them. Families vary in how well they can manage contact and some carers need help to build trust and openness with birth parents in the best interests of children. Consistent and concerted casework efforts to support carers are needed.

The Institute of Open Adoption Studies will build on the findings from the focus groups by using semi-structured interviews and arts-based methods to understand the contact experiences of birth parents and children, and to identify what practices strengthen families’ ability to create ongoing relationships. This evidence will be used to create and disseminate practice-informed evidence-informed resources for caseworkers.