Our attendance at a recent NAGALRO London conference on matters related to Contact, has given us a lot of food for thought. There, time and again, a point was stressed that defining family interactions within contact settings as simply ‘contact’ may just be misrepresenting and simplifying the profound process that such meetings between children and their significant others is designed to facilitate. After all, whether in family or private law, whether for children in SGO, ICO, CO and even adoptive placements, contact signifies meaningful relationship building and helping explore the child’s ‘world of relationships’. One could rightly argue that contact is much more profoundly important to a child, and indeed their family members, than ‘just’ seeing someone from time to time.
It seems quite clear to us that contact serves to maintain continuing family links and it supports family relationships as children mature (and this includes adoption) where most children, as they grow older, would seek out their biological significant others.
Another one of many very interesting discussions at the conference evolved around social media and how children use it to identify and get in touch with people they want to be connected to, regardless of contact order stipulations, for example.
So, should contact be rebranded? We feel there is a strong case for that. Though the process of change would undoubtedly be slow due to the term ‘contact’ being so ingrained in our professional practice, there is no reason not to embark on it right now. We would suggest ‘family time’ or ‘relationship support’?
We also know, that contact sessions in the context of non-English speaking families really do need to be supported by a culturally competent approach. This would include bi-lingual contact supervisors who are able to support a child’s fundamental right and need to maintain and nurture their cultural, linguistic and identity-building relationships.