What is contact time with family?

Learn what contact time with family is and how you can make it a positive experience for a child.

Contact is arranged time that a child spends with their family. That usually means their parents, but arrangements can also include the child’s siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles, family friends and even school friends.

Every situation is different, but the aim is to try and make sure the child stays in touch and maintains relationships with people who are important in their lives.

We speak to kinship carers every day and we know that managing contact time with family can sometimes be a challenge. But with good planning and communication, you can help make it a positive experience for the child you care for.

Always keep the child’s welfare in mind when making decisions and try to involve them in the process as much as possible.

How contact time with family works

How you arrange contact with family will depend on what type of kinship care arrangement you have. A court may have made a contact plan, which should include information on how contact time should work.

If you have an informal kinship care arrangement, you will need to work with the child and their family to plan and organise good contact time.

Contact time can happen in many ways. The child can spend time with their family in person and that can be with you or another trusted adult there with them. The meeting may be in your home or the home of the person they are spending time with.

In some cases, you may want to arrange contact time at a dedicated contact centre or help organise an activity. Most contact time is for a set amount of time and usually a short visit, though can also include an overnight stay.

There is also digital contact time to think about too. A child may want to stay in contact with family by phone or tablet, which may include calls, text messages, video chat and social media. It may even be appropriate for the child to maintain contact with family by letter.

Find a contact centre (NACCC)

Why contact time with family is important

Contact time with family and friends brings many benefits to the child you care for. It allows them to stay connected to their family, maintain a sense of who they are and better understand what has happened to them.

A child can feel a sense of loss when they are separated from their parents and wider family. Positive contact time can help them deal with those feelings and begin to repair and build important relationships.

Research shows that contact time with family is even more important when it maintains and builds on a child’s racial or religious identity. With good quality contact experiences, they can maintain a connection with their wider community.

Get support

Kinship carers often tell us that managing contact time with family is one of the most stressful parts of the role. There is pressure to get it right and you want to make the right choices for the child you care for.

The good news is you can get a wide range of support. You may want to find and contact your local council’s children’s services (GOV.UK) to see if they can help, especially if the child is in care or you have a legal order.

You can also contact our advice service here at kinship or find a kinship support group, where you can meet and speak to other kinship carers.