Children looked after by their grandparents or other extended family members may not benefit from seeing their parents, new research suggests.
A charity called Grandparents Plus interviewed a sample of 53 young people who had been raised in kinship care arrangements. Some had seen their mothers while teenagers, others had not. No less than 42 per cent of those who had seen their mothers went on to suffer from mental health problems, while only 12 per cent of those who had not did so.
Approximately 180,000 children currently live with family members according to the charity, the majority with grandparents and just under a quarter with older brothers or sisters. Most have been removed from their parents because the latter had problems with drink or drugs, engaged in criminal activity, or both.
Sarah Wellard of Grandparents Plus said the results suggested that unsupervised, emotionally fraught contact with parents could have a lasting effect on such youngsters despite the current consensus among family law professionals and social workers that it is always beneficial.
“Contact with parents can be very helpful for children but it’s about the relationship with the child, how much support is offered, and whether it is supervised or not. Those are all very important considerations. If you’re a foster carer, you get help to make such contact as positive as possible for the children.”
“What we saw in our study were quite a lot of cases where young people were having unsupervised contact with their parents and it was very distressing. The parents might be on drugs or they’d been drinking and they certainly weren’t putting the children’s needs first.”
Around two thirds of children living with relatives see their mothers, and approximately half see their fathers.
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