Young People's Zone

I am a looked after child

CAN I HAVE LESS CONTACT WITH MY FAMILY?

Sometimes children in care find it difficult to see their families and may want to see them less or even stop seeing them altogether. This is OK and you can talk to people about this.

The law says that Children’s Services have to try and ensure that you can have contact with your family but only if this is good for you (sometimes called ‘being in your best interests’) (The part of the law which says this is Schedule 2, paragraph 15, Children Act 1989).

Some of the reasons why some children choose not to see their family include:

  • There are still lots of problems in the family and things happen during contact which make them upset
  • Their family don’t turn up when contact is arranged and this makes them feel sad and disappointed
  • They are trying to settle in to their new placement or school and seeing their family can make them upset and unsettled.

Whatever the reason, it is OK to ask to see your family less.

What can I do?

Be Prepared
Before speaking to your social worker, it is important to think about exactly what you want. Try answering these questions:

  • Do you want to stop all contact with your family or would you just prefer it to be less often? How often would you like it to be?
  • Do you want to see your family face to face or would a different form of contact be easier? Maybe by letter or telephone?
  • If you want to see your family face to face, would it help to have someone else there to make sure everything is OK (this is called supervised contact)?
  • Who in your family do you want to see? You can have different contact arrangements with different people – you can see some people more and choose not to see other people at all. This is OK.

Talk to People
The most important people to speak to are:

  • Your Social Worker: Your social worker should ask you who you want to see and should help change the contact arrangements if you are unhappy with them. You might be worried about what your family might think if you choose not to see them and your social worker can help with this. They can meet with your family to explain things and help your family understand.
  • Your Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) (see The Name Game, Become): Your IRO is responsible for making sure that your social worker makes plans that are good for you (“in your best interests”) and this includes plans for seeing your family. If you don’t agree with the plans for family contact, you can discuss it at your LAC Review.  You can talk about what you want in your LAC Review meeting or discuss it privately with your IRO outside of the meeting.

Making a Complaint
If you have spoken to everyone and you feel that no-one is listening, then you have the right to make a complaint. It is important that you are not forced to see people that make you feel unsafe or unhappy and a complaint can help make sure your views are listened to. To find out more about making a complaint, please click here.

Get Some Help
If you still feel that no-one is listening, you can contact your local advocacy service or you may even want to consult a solicitor. Depending on your age and what has happened in the past, you may be able to apply for a court order to stop contact with your family. If you want to speak to a solicitor you can call Coram Children’s Legal Centre on 0207 713 0089 for advice.

But remember, trying to go to court can be complicated so it is normally best to try and get everything sorted out by talking to people first. You can find your local Advocacy service by clicking here.

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