A Brief History of Contact in Fostering and Adoption: Practice and Power, and The Coming of the Mobile Phone

Jenny Simpson, Gary Clapton

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticle

Abstract

This article charts the UK history of contact in fostering and adoption as it relates to children in care and their birth relatives. It builds on a recent publication in this journal by one of the authors based on her research on children in care and their use of social media. Here we look at previous practices relating to the question of whether or not contact ought to be ‘allowed’, in which words such as ‘access’ were used betokening the child as object, and we come up-to-date with reference to contemporary efforts to recast contact as ‘family time’ and being of significance in the child’s continuation of understanding of self. We also problematize other words in the lexicon including ‘contact’ itself. Attention is also devoted to social work’s conception and management of contact. We argue that a critical history of contact reveals the various ways that formal and informal power operates to both regulate and discipline those involved, most centrally, the child and birth family members. Drawing upon emerging research relating to social media and contact, the article concludes with some trenchant comments concerning how young people’s access to, and use of, social media has altered how contact is managed and ‘policed’, and how this has shifted the balance of power in contact towards greater egalitarianism.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalAdoption & Fostering
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 9 Jul 2020

Keywords

  • Looked After Children
  • Mobile communication devices
  • power dynamics
  • contact
  • adoption and fostering

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