Centre for Social Work Practice

Facilitating Meaningful Contact In Adoption and Fostering. A Trauma-Informed Approach to Planning and Assessing and Good Practice

Review posted January 30, 2015


By Louis Sydney and Elsie Price

Jessica Kingsley Publishers; London and Philadelphia. 2014. Reviewed by Liz Tusting-Fleet.

Facilitating meaningful contact in adoption and fostering, a trauma – informed approach to planning and assessing and good practice” has been co-written by Louis Sydney and Elsie Price. The content is informed and validated by the authors’ vast professional practice and experience working therapeutically with children and young people separated from their birth families. Case studies are used throughout as an effective medium to demonstrate and reinforce the authenticity of their knowledge and insight along with appropriate references to current research and literature within this field.

This book is extremely relevant to all practitioners’ charged with the responsibility of making decisions, organizing and thinking about contact between children and young people and their birth families.

The content provides a therapeutic and sensitive insight and approach to enabling contact between children and their birth families. Making possible complex interactions that can enhance the emotional security of those involved, especially the children. The author’s philosophies are empathic and respectful of the fundamental needs and vulnerability of children and their birth families. Crucial emphasis is placed upon the importance of undertaking individual assessments to create plans that are reflective and essentially promote the individual child’s recovery from their traumatic experiences. Rather than formulaic plans that ‘prescribe’ arrangements for contact and which fail to consider the impact of re-traumatisation, and undermining the process of recovery.

I found the author’s creative approach to facilitating contact between babies and their families as a refreshing alternative to the often complicated arrangements that are potentially chaotic and disruptive, and which eliminate any real opportunity for therapeutic quality.

I am enthused by the author’s suggestion for training contact supervisor’s to be able to engage in relational play and act as ‘the adult with mindsight’, (page 63.) therefore providing attunement where the parent is unable to do so, and the potential for this to strengthen the parent child relationship. I consider this to be quite an exciting prospect which challenge’s the historical role of the supervisor as an observer in an often non- participant position. In addition to specialist training, further consideration should be given to the provision of clinical supervision for those workers responsible for supervising the contacts who are most frequently exposed to the distressing dynamics within the families, sometimes in quick succession from one family to another.

This book delivers a wealth of knowledge, resources and tools that can develop further good practice and provides an abundance of useful ideas and insight. I am enthralled with the psychological approach to contact that is reparative and can contribute to the individual child’s healing process. I feel this is too often over looked or determined by the legal framework.

The management and facilitation of effective contact between children and their birth families, is a complex of emotional and relational developmental milestones, which must be encountered to reconstruct functional inner working models and enable the child’s healing process. I strongly recommend this book as essential reading for all practitioners, prior to thinking about contact arrangements and to senior managers responsible for service delivery and innovation.

Liz Tusting-Fleet
27th January 2015

About Liz

I have been a social work manager in children’s services for 10 years and a qualified children’s practitioner for 18 years. In my current role I am responsible for the development, implementation and management of a specialist therapeutic service, I have a passionate interest in the provision of high quality and sustainable, therapeutic foster placements.

I have previously managed the local authority contact service. I have a Masters Degree in fostering and adoption studies.

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