Children are more likely to lose touch with their birth families and friends the longer they stay in care, according to a report published today by children’s rights director for England Roger Morgan.
The report, Keeping in Touch, surveyed nearly 400 children and young people about keeping in touch and losing contact with their families and friends while in care.
Contact with parents, siblings and other relatives was much less for those who had been in care for more than two years.
Respondents identified a number of reasons for losing contact with their birth families, including a move to a new placement, being placed far away from family, the adoption of siblings, or simply growing apart as time passed.
The report found that sometimes the responsibility lay with carers who failed to help children maintain this contact. One young person said they gradually lost contact with family because their carer would take contact away as a punishment for bad behaviour.
There were also, however, many examples of carers making extra efforts to help children keep in touch with their families.
Morgan, who acts independently of Ofsted although his post is based at the children’s services watchdog, said: “It is essential that children have the opportunity to voice their concerns in order to improve services for children in care. This is why this report about keeping in touch with birth families is important.
“The report provides some key insights for all those involved in looking after children in care. I hope it will encourage more support and accessibility for children to have contact with their families, and choice about that contact, in what can be very trying and challenging times.”
Children’s minister Delyth Morgan said: “We want children in the care system to lead happy and healthy lifestyles and to have the same experiences and ambitions as their peers. We know that children in care often benefit from continued contact with their brothers, sisters and wider family, and the government has been clear that the right procedures should be in place to ensure this can happen. However, this report shows the picture is patchy at best.”
She said she hoped local authorities would use the revised statutory guidance published in November to improve the contact between children in care and their families across the country.
The report revealed significant differences for children living in different types of care placements. Almost all the children living in children’s homes – 99% – were separated from their siblings compared to those living in foster care, where the rate was just 66%.
Fifty-two percent of those living in children’s homes were also more likely to lose all contact with their fathers compared with children living with foster carers, where the level was 41%. However, 58% of children in children’s homes were more likely to have contact with their mothers (at least once a month) than those in foster care, where the level was 42%.