Thinking about and managing contact in permanent placements: the differences and similarities between adoptive parents and foster carers

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Children permanently separated from their birth families have to manage life-long issues of attachment, identity and loss. This article focuses on the issue of post- placement contact and discusses the qualities of foster carers and adopters that can best help children negotiate such issues when contact occurs. Two linked research studies provide data on young adopted children, and children in middle childhood placed in long-term foster care. Almost all foster children were found to be having frequent face-to-face contact, compared with only a small minority of adopted children. However, face-to-face contact was found to be more straightforward in the adoptive families, largely because such young children had less complex relationships with their birth relatives and easier relationships with their new parents. Adopters were centrally involved in contact meetings and able to act autonomously, whereas the experience of foster carers was much more varied, with some feeling excluded from decision-making. In both placement types, sensitive and empathic thinking and accepting values of foster carers and adopters were vital in helping children use contact meetings to make sense of their membership of two families. When such parental attributes were present, a wide range of contact arrangements could be successful.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)401-418
Number of pages18
JournalClinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2003

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