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Identifying family connections

Young people can develop and test relationships with adults based on things like reliability and trust. They can choose the adults who may then accompany them on the next stage of their life journey. CSOs can assist by:

  • developing and modelling healthy relationships with young people
  • keeping in contact with family members and setting the expectation of ongoing relationships with the young person
  • discussing realistic expectations and the capacity of family to respond to their feelings of lost connections.  

Note

Family is a key consideration … for young people transitioning from care this is most usefully understood in terms of the development of families of destination or family of choice, rather than centred around birth parents and family of origin.

(Crane, Kaur & Burtin, 2013, p. 6)

Practice prompt

Use and/or re-visit the Circles of Safety and Support Tool with different members of the network to ensure full exploration of family, kin and community resources.

Engaging in therapeutic life story work may provide the opportunity to re-engage the young person with lost relationships.

Timelines

Another technique to identify family and inform the members of a safety and support network is completing a timeline with the young person. This can help identify people who have cared about the young person throughout their life.

Timelines can showcase gaps in what we know about the young person and point out family members who may have dropped out of the picture when the young person entered care.

One thing to note is that doing this with a family or young person can be empowering and/or traumatising. Be sure to prepare the young person before you try this technique to ensure that it is done safely and without detriment.

Helpful questions for creating the timeline:

  • Who was in the young person’s life at this time?
  • Who would have cared about the young person during this time?
  • What do we know or imagine their relationship was like?
  • What was the young person’s ethnicity, culture and religion during this time?
  • Who do we suspect might have been in the young person’s life (for example, teachers) about whom we don’t know much yet?

Genograms

Yet another useful technique is genograms, which are pictorial displays of a young person's family relationships and other factors, such as medical history and complicating factors.

It is best completed with the young person and family to ensure accurate records are used to inform the genogram. The genogram can then be used to source family members, who may reach out to support the young person.

It is also a useful tool to see which family members the young person is close to, in order to ensure we continue to provide family contact and connection with all important biological family members while the young person is in care.

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