Contact reduced to 6 times a year and we don't understand why?!

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Joined: Sun Feb 17, 2019 3:29 pm

Contact reduced to 6 times a year and we don't understand why?!

Post by LouAyRoo » Thu Feb 21, 2019 12:52 pm

Hi, firstly I do apologise for the length of this post. I could go on forever.
Here goes...
Our children were placed in my mother's care 3 years ago and we have done everything in our power to work with Social Services every step of the way to get them back. My partner and I have completed 3 different parenting courses, both had therapy and been on year long courses to become 'model parents' and better people. (Please let me assure you we have never physically harmed our children but a tragedy made it hard for us to cope for a while) At first we saw our children three times a week.That was then changed to once a week then once a fortnight then once a month we have just received a letter stating that it will now go down the the minimum which is once every 8 weeks. We have been allowed to take the children out into the community and all has been going very well we get on fantastically with our 2 CRWs & have had no problems whatsoever during contact our children love to see us and the love and excitement in their eyes and cheers as in ours are enough to make anyone see that. They cry every time they have to leave and go back to my mother. My eldest daughter has, since September 18, been attending secondary school and from the moment she arrived has been bullied as when she was 3 years old her little brother & father died (my son and ex husband) and some of the children have found out and thought it was a good idea to use this as an excuse to bully her. Some of the things she has had to endure are absolutely heartbreaking and after the Christmas holidays on her first day back at school she was attacked by a 15 year old boy (please bear in mind that she is only 11 herself). This caused her to become so upset that that evening she stole a razor blade from my mother's bathroom cut herself very badly and ran away to our house. she was very distressed obviously and blood was pouring out of her arm. I was in the bath when she arrived and my partner had just come home and was dirty from work. I jumped out of the bath hearing the commotion downstairs and threw a towel round me as fast as I could my partner ran to get a clean tea towel to wrap around her arm whilst he washed the dirt off of his hands before he proceeded to clean and check her arm / wrist. I held her and comforted her whilst he stopped the bleeding as much as he could. My phone rang and I missed it the first time but I did run upstairs to phone my mother as fast as I possibly could do without leaving my daughter to think we didn't care that this was happening. No longer than 15 minutes. I let her know what had happened she was very angry and said she was on her way. When she arrived she was very angry with my daughter for causing so much hassle I pleaded with her away from my daughter to please not be angry with her she is under massive amounts of pressure but she only appeared to be worried about how this would impact herself. The next morning first thing I tried to get hold of our social worker who was not available, I tried to get hold of her manager who was also not available, I tried again and again and emailed receiving a short "Sorry I'm busy and will get back to you as soon as possible" email in response. 3 weeks later still had not heard anything back and was still phoning them. On the 16th of February we received a letter that reads: You are aware of the difficulties that ___ has been having and how her confusion and uncertainty of her future has exacerbated how she is feeling, placing her at high risk of harm.The plan for the local authority is to keep her and ____ placed with your mother for the duration of their childhood. It has been raised that both children are under the impression that they will be returning home to yourselves but this is not something that we support and have informed both children the plans that the local authority have.
We have had a professionals' meeting which have included myself,your mother's fostering social worker, the team managers from both teams, the school, health and psychologists and it has been decided that a reduction of contact will help the children to move forwards and provide the stability they need. Contact should now take place every 8 weeks and will remain supervised by two contact supervisors in a contact centre.
We are extremely upset with this as things were going so well. I managed to get hold of the social worker who wrote this letter and asked what exactly she was talking about as we have never given the children any false hope or made promises as we know this is hugely inappropriate and upsetting as well as very confusing for the children. We have honestly done everything possible to stick to every rule and do as we're told the whole time, yet, every time things seem to be running smoothly we are hit with what appears to be another lie to reduce contact. In my opinion the way in which they handled the situation with my daughter self harming is absolutely disgusting and therefore have come up with yet another excuse to widen their wedge between us, in the hopes that our children will grow up resenting us for not being there for them when they most needed us. My daughter has been told that if she ever comes to our house again she will be removed from my mother's care and placed out of the area away from her sibling all by herself when we asked social services this they totally denied this allegation even after my daughter and my mother had told us that they have said this, themselves?! We just don't know what to do anymore we have looked up so much information and nothing quite matches our case we cannot afford to keep going back to our solicitor every time they do this. We really, really need some help/advice.

thank you to anybody who managed to get all the way through that and can reply.

And everybody in a similar situation to my children and ourselves I send you all the luck and all the love in the world

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Suzie, FRG Adviser
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Joined: Mon Jul 04, 2011 2:57 pm

Re: Contact reduced to 6 times a year and we don't understand why?!

Post by Suzie, FRG Adviser » Tue Feb 26, 2019 3:46 pm

Dear LooAyRoo

Welcome to the Parents’ discussion board and thank you for your post. My name is Suzie, FRG’s online adviser.

I am sorry to hear of the difficulties that you and your family have experienced and the current situation where you have been advised that contact with your 11 year old daughter and your other child has been reduced to once every 8 weeks. I am also very sorry to hear about the distress your daughter has suffered, that she has self-harmed and the bereavement you have suffered as a family.

From what you have said, I think that the children are placed in kinship foster care with their grandmother under care orders to the local authority. It sounds as if this is intended to be a long-term fostering arrangement until they are 18.

Contact has reduced over time. This is not unusual when children are in foster care although contact arrangements for every child should be based on their needs and their welfare.

However, you have been informed by the children’s social worker that contact is being further reduced from once a month to once every two months and that it will be supervised by 2 supervisors at a contact centre. The social worker has provided reasons for this decision which it appears was decided following a professionals’ meeting where it was argued that these new contact arrangements are needed in order to provide stability for the children and to minimise any confusion they may feel. You disagree with this and do not feel that you, in any way, gave the children the impression that they would be returning home. However, children's services seem to have taken the view that the regular contact you have been having is not helping the children adjust to the permanency of their home with their grandmother.

This must be very distressing for you especially as you explain that you have tried to keep to the arrangements that were set down and you are worried about the lack of support for your daughter in particular.

It is always difficult when parents and professionals view a situation very differently especially where plans, which they are very unhappy about, are imposed upon parents. The local authority is in the driving seat in terms of making plans for your children as they have a care order for them. Contact is always about the children’s needs. Any changes to the times they see and spend time with their family members should be based on an assessment of the children’s needs. I think children’s service would argue that they have done this.

However, children’s services must also find out and take account of parents’ views when making or changing the arrangements. You could ask the children’s social worker and their Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) to clarify (in writing) to what extent they have taken account of your views as you are not in agreement with the reduction in your contact with the children.

You might want to ask for a specific meeting to discuss this in more detail or to check when the next Looked After Child review meeting is taking place as contact must be reviewed at each meeting.

I think it would be a good idea to ask them to let you know what they would like you to do differently to be able to go back to the previous arrangement. You need to be able to have a full discussion with the social worker about the events that have happened so that they can explain their worries and so that you can also consider what you can do to reassure children’s services and to help your children manage better. If further assessment or more support is needed to help you and the children have positive time together then this should be looked at too. This could also include more support for the children’s carer, their grandmother, around managing contact.

In the meantime, you could put forward suggestions for indirect contact too and ask the social worker to consider and respond to this.
You are worried about your daughter’s self-harming and what help she is being given around this. Again, you can ask the social worker to let you know what is in place around this. As a looked after child your daughter will have a health plan which should include her emotional wellbeing and this should address the self-harm.

You are also concerned that your daughter has been threatened with being moved and separated from her grandmother and sibling if she comes to you again although this has been refuted. Again you can ask for clarification of this and if you remain dissatisfied you could make a complaint.

I would encourage you though to keep communicating with children’s services (and ask that they keep you fully updated too).

Have a look at our advice sheets on duties on children’s services when children are in care and contact with children in care as they explain in much more detail how plans around contact are made and reviewed and what you can do as a parent if you are unhappy about the arrangements. They also highlight research which shows the benefits that children often gain from regular contact with their parents and family members.

I don’t know if the children have access to advocacy or if you think this would be a good idea but you could raise this with the social worker and IRO if you think this would help the children.

You can consider a court application for contact if you cannot reach agreement or move forward with children’s services around this. This is fully explained in our advice sheet on contact with children in care (link above). However, it is usually best to have tried to resolve the matter, taken on board concerns and put forward solutions before doing so. You mention having gone back to your solicitor in the past around contact issues so you are probably fully aware of this option.

I hope this helps. Other parents who have been able to overcome contact difficulties may be able to offer some suggestions too.

With best wishes


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