Exploring experiences of birth parent contact in special guardianship families

    Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


    Exploring experiences of birth parent contact in special guardianship families.

    Special guardians are kinship carers in the UK who have a legal order giving them custody and parental rights of a child until the child reaches the age of eighteen. Special guardians usually have to arrange for the child to have contact time with their birth parent. There is limited research regarding contact experiences for special guardians. Compared with adopters and foster carers, special guardians face inequalities in service provision and receive little or no support to manage contact, despite difficulties due to their complex relationships with birth parents.

    Special guardians in this study identified three areas of importance and meaning when managing contact: Contact support, Relationships/Family dynamics and Special guardian/child well-being. All three of these areas are inextricably linked, highlighting an urgency for individualised support services to ensure special guardians can provide children with good quality contact experiences, which promote the child’s well-being and shape a positive sense of identity.

    What do special guardians experience?
    Contact support:
    “What do we do if Terence turns up and wants the kids? What do we do if etc. etc? So, I think we called social services, and nobody came, and nobody came, and nobody came, and nobody came.  So, we’re fairly proactive people, we wrote to our MP and said we would like some social work support, please.” 

    Relationships/Family dynamics:
    “Really, she is a very insecure and unhappy woman, with all kinds of traumatic problems in the past, and as I say emotionally unstable personality disorder…I do what I can to support her really, so taking her a Sunday dinner, or sometimes I have taken her a portion of our evening meal, it’s a way of helping her to feel that she is still loved.”

    Special guardian/child wellbeing:
    “This is another thing; she didn’t know how to be a mum on one of these reports I had read. So that’s hard work because your like, “let’s build a train set, Alfie you choose a train for mummy and then mummy can play with you.” And she will get down on the floor, then get her phone out, and that’s it she doesn’t play.”

    This study aims to amplify the experiences of special guardians and recognise that their support needs are unique due to complex family relationships. UK Government legislation in children’s social work is shifting towards actively promoting kinship care, with a new Kinship Care Bill planned. This is the time to ensure special guardians’ voices are heard and inequalities in support are addressed. This study’s findings are wide-reaching and will also benefit international researchers, practitioners and policymakers for kinship care and guardianship arrangements.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusUnpublished - Oct 2023
    EventContact in Context: The Family Futures Conference 2023 - Online
    Duration: 20 Oct 202320 Oct 2023

    Non-academic conference

    Non-academic conferenceContact in Context


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