Contact with Birth Parents: Hearing the Voice of the Looked After Child: Contact with Birth Parents

Eimear McDowell, Marian McLaughlin, T CASSIDY

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Contact with birth parents has consistently been identified as one of the most important issues for young people in care.
However, there has been considerable debate with regards to the impact of maintaining direct contact with birth parents for
looked after children and young people and a lack of robust research from the perspectives of young people themselves. As
such, the aim of this study was to explore the ways in which young people are affected by contact and what factors impact this
experience. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with seven care-experienced young people. The most appropriate
method of analysis consistent with the aims of the study was `interpretative phenomenological analysis' (IPA) as this method is
concerned with portraying and exploring the meanings and processes of individual perspectives. Three key themes emerged reflecting the children and young people’s experience of contact, their sense of disempowerment and their experience of attachment relationships. Overall findings show that contact with birth parents is an extremely emotional and distressing experience for looked after children regardless of the child’s desire for contact. The potential for damage is obvious and a key to reducing negative effects lies in empowering the child in the process and understanding something about their long term
experience of attachment.
Original languageEnglish
Article number3
Pages (from-to)194-199
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Social Sciences and Humanities
Issue number3
Early online date31 May 2019
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 31 May 2019


  • Contact with Birth Parents
  • Looked After Children
  • Disempowerment
  • Attachment


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