A study by the Centre of Excellence in Child Trauma (CoECT) has concluded that hundreds of children are being taken to see their biological parents by unwilling foster carers who say that contact is damaging the children and should be stopped.
The survey follows a backlash by carers who want to see a total ban on contact with biological parents.
According to the survey, which received 1,125 responses from parents who have adopted, fostered, or cared for children, 53 percent of carers polled “had to take” their child to see a biological parent.
A further 85% of parents believed it should be illegal for biological parents to be guaranteed contact time. (We are not sure what “guaranteed” means in this context).
There are several concerns with this study (which does not seem to be available on the CoEct site).
The survey calls biological parents who have lost their children to the care system “abusive parents”, without defining what abusive means, and fails to make any distinction between children living in homes where the parents are struggling with poverty, subjected to domestic violence or experiencing direct emotional and physical harm.
It’s a shoddy survey. And it gets worse.
Sarah Naish, who is the CEO and founder of CoECT, a former social worker and a parent of five adopted siblings compared all biological parents to rapists in an interview with The Telegraph today:
“You would not expect to meet your rapist once a month for a cup of tea, so why do we force children to keep seeing their abusers?
“Looking at the poll alone, this is evidence that over 500 children have been marched back to visit their abusers, which is an absolute disgrace. From the stories I hear on a daily basis this is the tip of the iceberg and something needs to be done.
“This should be regarded as one of the biggest scandals that still exists in the British legal system today. The legal view that contact with parents is beneficial to a child’s welfare becomes absolutely ridiculous when that parent is the one that abused them.
“The parents I speak to dedicate their entire beings to try and heal the children they have to care for, only for them to be the adult that has to march their child back to the person that abused them.
“The government needs to take action on this and ban parents that have abused their children from having contact with them.”
Naish is also the founder of the National Association of Therapeutic Parenting, which offers paid for courses, workshops and training for carers.
It is also not clear from the survey whether the respondents were all pooled from Ms. Naish’s association.
And the survey itself is not new, having been announced initially in August, where the alleged findings from this survey seemed to focus not on a ban on contact with biological parents but an effort to get the government to offer more therapeutic support, like the courses Ms. Naish offers, for carers.
While it may be inconvenient for foster carers to have to facilitate contact with biological parents, it is being recognised as an important element in a cared-for child’s life, as a growing body of research tells us very clearly that many of these children don’t want to lose that connection and that the loss of it can lead to children suffering emotional and psychological harm throughout their adult lives.
In situations where a child genuinely doesn’t want to see a parent at a particular time, or during a particular period in their childhoods, that should be respected, but that should not include a complete lack of engagement from the foster carers with the biological parents. That connection must be kept alive for the child, throughout their childhood, even if it is done behind the scenes.
For those few children who have parents that are violent, or unable to engage with them without causing them harm, contact is clearly not a good idea, but the vast majority of child protection cases don’t involve extreme violence or emotional harm.
As of March 2018, there are 55,200 children living with foster families. The alleged ‘hundreds’ of children meeting with their biological parents is a small percentage compared to this figure.
The latest figures which include all forms of care, put the number of looked after children at 75,420. It’s a stat that has continued to rise over the last thirty years, without any explanation for the increase being offered by child protection professionals.
The piece by The Telegraph is inflammatory and we would advise that parents who have children in care and are feeling emotional at this time, not read it. For those who feel comfortable doing so, the sensationalist piece can be read here.
We reached out to CoECT on Twitter and via email to ask for a copy of the survey. We did not receive a response.
We received an email from CoECT on 10th October about our request for access to their survey. This is all they offered:
Many thanks for your email Please see the survey results below.
Are you looking after, or have you looked after, a child who was forced to have contact with a parent or other adult who had abused them?
Do you think it should be illegal for parents who have been abusive to their children to still be guaranteed contact time?