Children are connected to a number of people through informal family and social networks. The stability that is provided to a child by having a lifetime network of supportive adults, and a sense of belonging, creates the foundation for relational and physical permanency. Legal permanency can be used to reinforce and strengthen the relational and physical dimensions.
Use the Circles of Safety and Support tool to identify the important relationships already in place around children. When we use this tool with a child and their family, we can gather rich information that we may not have known about.
The relationship tab in ICMS may hold information about a child or young person’s relationships. Use this information and check it with a family or with involved agencies as a start to building knowledge of important family connections.
‘Family Finding’ is a process developed by Kevin Campbell and colleagues in the United States that seeks to connect children with family and other supportive adults who will love and care for them now and across their lifespan.
Family Finding asserts the importance of relational permanency for children. It also stresses the importance of stable relationships in providing a sense of security and belonging that builds resilience and coping skills for children and young people, better preparing them for adulthood.
Central beliefs of Family Finding
- All children have family members who can be found.
- Children have a right to know the whereabouts and wellbeing of their family members.
- A sense of identity, belonging and being loved unconditionally is essential to a child’s health, development and dignity.
- Connection is a prerequisite to healing.
- Successful support for traumatised children relies on respectful, collaborative engagement with family members.
- Parents and families generally want the best for their children and need connections and supports to be able to provide adequate care for them.
For more information, go to the Seneca Family Finding and Permanency website.
This video details the importance of Family Finding practices.
Family contact is key in developing a child’s relational permanency. It is extremely important in developing and maintaining relationships between children, siblings, their parents, extended families and communities. It must be regularly reviewed, focusing on the quality of this contact.
The views and wishes of a child, their siblings, the child’s parents, and members of the child’s safety and support network should be considered when determining how contact will progress.
Practice guide: Family contact for children in care.
Siblings in the family unit
As Australia’s definition of family moves more away from the traditional ‘nuclear’ definition, so does the definition of who is a sibling.
The Child Welfare Information Gateway’s (2013) January Bulletin described some of the relationships that could now be considered as ‘sibling’:
- Full or half-siblings, including any children who were relinquished or removed at birth
- Adopted children in the same household, not biologically related
- Children born into the family and their foster/adopted siblings
- Other close relatives or nonrelatives living in the same kinship home
- Foster children in the same family
- Friends with a close, enduring relationship
- Children of the partner or former partner of the child’s parent
- Individuals conceived from the same sperm or egg donor. (McDowall, 2015)
Be curious about who might be a child’s sibling. The child is one of the best sources of this information. Try asking them who they think their siblings are.
When a child is removed from their parents’ care, either with their siblings or at different times, consider the importance of placing sibling groups together wherever possible. The impact of feelings a child may experience on entering care, such as anxiety, trauma, grief, guilt and loss, reduces when children are placed with their siblings and these relationships continue to provide support through to adulthood (Herrick et al., 2005 cited in McDowall, 2015).
Stability and permanency in placements is more likely to occur when siblings are placed together, with research indicating that siblings ‘being placed together in care strongly predicts successful reunification’ (Webster et al., 2005 cited in McDowall, 2015).
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