If you want contact with your birth child
Fostering Contact is a group which supports children’s rights to choose their relationships, but particularly with regard to contact with former foster carers. If you are having issues with contact with your own birth children, there are organisations who can help you such as Coram Children’s Legal Centre and The Who Cares? Trust.
If someone else wants contact with your birth child
In most cases, you should not be worried about a former foster carer wanting contact with one of your birth children. Your relationship is usually given priority by the Local Authority and by the courts and any contact would not undermine or replace yours.
It is likely that your child spent a considerable amount of time in the care of the foster parent and that they formed a bond. It is quite normal that people maintain bonds with people important to them, regardless of how that bond was formed. Your child may experience loss if they are not allowed contact, just as they may experience loss if they can not see an Auntie or Grandparent that they care about.
If a foster carer has applied for a Contact Order
If a foster carer is seeking a Contact Order through the courts, it is unlikely that your child will be under a Freeing Order (for adoption) and will probably be under a Care Order. In this case, you will be notified of the proceedings as you have Parental Responsibility. Although you will be named as a respondent in the case, this does not mean that the foster carer is ‘against’ you – this is a technicality to allow you to have your say.
There will be one or more directions hearings, probably followed by a full hearing where the evidence will be presented. Usually, the foster carer will be seeking a Contact Order which is opposed by the Local Authority. You will have an opportunity to have your say to the judge either in writing or in court (sometimes both). You should consider what is in the best interest of the child before you give your opinion.
When considering what your child would want, there are a few important things to remember. Firstly, if the foster carer is making an application to the courts, it is likely that they looked after your child for some length of time and genuinely feel the child would be hurt by not having contact, or otherwise they would not go to all the trouble and expense. Secondly, you may well have only heard the arguments of the Local Authority, as you probably will not have had regular contact with the foster carers. You should ask the Local Authority to make sure that they forward all statements and evidence to you – in practice, we have found Local Authorities do not always fulfil this requirement automatically.
If you are having contact with your child, or may have contact at a later date, the court will consider this and give priority to your contact, so you do not need to worry about the Contact Order undermining your relationship with your child.