Contact visits between foster children and their birth family in Andalusia (Spain)

Bernedo Isabel M., Researcher, Department of Developmental and Educational Psychology, Malaga University, Spain 

Maria D. Salas, , Department of Developmental and Educational Psychology, Malaga University, Spain.

Maria J. Fuentes, Researcher, Department of Developmental and Educational Psychology, Malaga University, Spain.

Miguel Ángel García-Martín, Researcher, Department of Social Psychology, Social anthropology, Social Work and Social Services, Spain

Contact visit between a foster child and birth parents has different functions, such as maintaining the children’s attachment to their birth family and bringing a greater sense of continuity to the children’s life story. However, some research suggests that such visits can be detrimental. The objective of this study is to analyses the characteristics of contact visits in foster care and to evaluate the quality of the visits between children with biological parents.  Method: This study is part of a project financed by the regional government of Andalusia (Spain). Participants were 104 foster children between 5 and 17.8 years old. 56 (53.8%) had contact visits with their birth parents. Access to the information about the care situations was done through the official Child Protection Agency. Evaluation of Contact Visits Questionnaire was completed by social workers.  Results: Some results are: a) a high proportion of children (46.2%) had no contact visits; b) low regularity of contact visits was found; c) many visits were rated as poor quality; and d) children whose visits were rated as involving poor or very poor interaction perceived more criticism/rejection on the part of their parents, as compared with children whose visits were rated as involving average, good or very good interaction. Conclusion: This research and other highlight the importance of assessing the suitability of contact visits in each individual case. What is clear is that such visits will only be beneficial to the child if they are properly planned, supported and continually supervised by professionals.

Keywords: Foster care, contact visit, birth families

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