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Observing Contact

Practice Guidance – Points for consideration by Guardians when observing contact

 The child’s safety and well-being should always be the primary consideration during contact.


Details of the practical arrangements for contact

Children and family members involved in contact arrangements.

Venue and travel arrangements for parent/child(ren) and carer.

Frequency and duration of contact.

Purpose and type of contact – for example – supervised/assessed/monitored.

  • Is the parent provided with any support or educative work during contact or simply observed?
  • Is feedback provided to parent following contact?


Views of everyone involved in contact

Child’s expressed view/wishes in relation to contact. GAL may wish to include child’s “About Me” workbook.

Parent’s views in relation to contact including any comments about frequency, venue, arrangements, quality, concerns and future aspirations.

Foster carer’s views in relation to contact including any comments on how contact might be impacting on the child and meeting the child’s needs, travel implications, child’s routine in foster placement.


Guardian’s Observations

GAL’S comments may include:


Parent’s time keeping and preparation

 Does parent arrive punctually for contact?

  • Is there evidence of preparation for contact, snacks and games/toys? Bottles/ nappies / wipes/ for a baby? (Including any financial implications for parents).
  • Any comments about the parent’s use of mobile phones or frequent cigarette breaks during contact?
  • Any comments about parent’s presentation e.g. Are there concerns about alcohol/ substance use?


Quality of greetings and endings

 Quality of interaction observed during greetings and endings. Does the parent make eye contact, talk to the child, smile, kiss, cuddle, hug the child, and enquire about them?

  • Parent ability to attend to basic care needs? E.g. Taking the child’s coat off?
  • How does the parent handle endings? How do they manage their feelings and respond to their child’s?
  • What are the child’s responses to their parent and how do they greet/ leave their parent?
  • How does the parent interact with the foster carer at handovers, if relevant?


Observations of the Child

 Child’s overall presentation during contact. For example; arousal state, alertness, facial expressions, eye contact, movements, behaviours.

  • Does the child appear to be at ease around the parent? Does this change as contact progresses?
  • Do they seek out physical comfort?
  • Does the child signal any discomfort or distress?
  • Is there evidence of the child adopting parental/caring role towards parent?


Observations of the Parent / Parenting

 Comments on the interaction or dynamic between parents, if both attend contact together?

  • Is the overall climate of contact affected by the mood/ presentation/ behaviour of the parent(s) in attendance and if this is consistent?
  • Parental sensitivity and responsiveness towards the child. How does the child respond to the parent? Is the child accepting or rejecting of parent.
  • Evidence of physical affection and emotional warmth from parent. Smiling, touching, eye contact, holding, cuddling, kissing, playing and encouraging play, singing, nursery rhymes, sitting them on lap, hold them in a gentle manner, showing concern, answer questions? Does the child accept same and respond?
  • Can the parent comfort the child appropriately? Do they respond to the child’s distress? Can they tolerate an infant or child’s distress and calm/soothe them?
  • Parent’s ability to pick up and attend to child’s cues and are they attuned to their needs? Eg. Thirst/ hunger/ toileting/ distress or discomfort/ play?
  • Does the parent complete basic parenting tasks competently including bottle preparation/ feeding/changing nappies? Do they make eye contact, talk to the infant/ child during feeding or changing? Does the parent hold the child facing them or away from them? If outdoor activity involved does the parent ensure the child is dressed appropriately for outdoor temperature?
  • Does the parent remember significant events for the child, including birthdays?
  • Does the parent communicate clearly to the child?
  • Is parental stimulation age appropriate? Is parent ever under or over-intrusive or do they over-excite child?
  • Does the parent respond appropriately to the baby or child’s vocalisations?
  • Parent’s awareness of basic safety needs? Is parent able to think ahead and anticipate danger? For example, hot drinks or food/radiators/ sharp objects/ secure child appropriately in seat/pram.
  • Does the parent set a good example for the child? Teach them appropriate social skills?
  • Does the parent show interest in their child’s achievements and acknowledge their efforts?
  • Does the parent enquire about child and encourage the child’s ideas/ listen to the child and respect their views?
  • Is there appropriate sharing of family news with older children?
  • Does the parent demonstrate an understanding of their child’s developmental stage?
  • Is there evidence of consistency and predictability of parent’s interactions with child?
  • Does the parent adopt an appropriate parental role with the child?
  • Comments on parent’s ability to manage child’s behaviour appropriately. Does the parent set limits and stick to them?
  • Comments on parent’s ability to manage competing needs of children and divide their attention appropriately?
  • Does the parent seek and accept support and guidance from professionals appropriately in relation to contact?
  • Does the parent present as motivated and engaged in parenting tasks?
  • Does the parent provide age appropriate snacks/food for the child? GALS comments on any positive or negative impact of the food provided by parent on the child during contact? Eg age appropriate healthy snack or lunch / excessive sweets?
  • Any significant comments made by the child or parent that GAL wishes to highlight.


Guardian’s Observations of the child before or after contact

  • Guardian’s observations of the child within the foster placement and how, if at all, does this compare to the observations of the child in contact with family member?


Guardian’s Analysis and Recommendations

  • Guardian’s views on what works well during contact. Include the strengths and positives.
  • Guardian’s views on what might need to change? Any deficits or difficulties.
  • Guardian’s comments on the current venue for contact and how this impacts on the overall quality of contact? Eg Trust Offices?
  • Is there any impact of the GAL attending contact?
  • Guardian’s views about the current supports being provided by the Trust for family contact?
  • Any comments about the consistency of contact workers/ supervisors?
  • Is the supervisor a social worker or contact worker? * Remember only a social worker can assess contact.
  • Guardian’s recommendations in respect of any additional support required to improve contact?
  • Guardian’s recommendations or proposals about the way forward including frequency/venue/ supervision/family members involved.