CPD session: contact with birth families

Notes for the session facilitator

This is one of a series of CPD sessions, helping you and your team to use Community Care Inform resources to keep your knowledge of a particular area up to date or improve practice.You can use these activities either as a small group or, with a larger team, dividing up to have discussions.This session uses video and audio clips from our June 2015 webinar on using a trauma model to assess contact with birth families.

The speaker is Norma Howes, a social worker, psychologist and psychotherapist who trains police, social workers, health and education staff on all aspects of childhood trauma and abuse. The chair is Camilla Pemberton, Community Care’s head of children’s social work content.

The clips from the webinar add up to around 20 minutes in total – depending on the number of people and if you want to share ideas from different groups, you could allow one to one and a half hours for the session.

Links to references and further reading, including guides Norma has written for Community Care Inform are provided at the end. You can use the email link to share this page with attendees.

We very much welcome feedback on these sessions and if there are future topics you would like to see, so do let us know.

If you want to view the whole webinar (one hour) you can play it back here. Click the green bar at the top to close this box.

1. Introduction

This session explores ways that using an understanding of trauma and its impact on behaviour can inform how you manage contact between children and their birth parents and siblings.

How would you define ‘trauma’? How would you say this relates to contact between a looked after child and their family, and achieving the best outcomes for them?

In the first clip, Norma Howes explains the ‘trauma model’ concept.

Answering a question from the webinar audience, she gives more detail about what is meant specifically by a ‘trauma bond’ (which she describes as a subcategory of disorganised attachment). Click below to play the audio clip.


Does this alter our understanding of trauma? Are there cases that you are thinking about differently while reflecting on this?


2. Trauma and relationships

Can you think of cases where this idea would indicate contact was not in the child’s best interests? How would you explain this for the courts?
Click the audio below to hear some questions that practitioners raised. Do you gather and assess this sort of information in relation to contact?


3. Tips for planning and monitoring contact

Are you considering all these questions when thinking about contact? Are there barriers to addressing any of these?
One of the audience asked about ‘debriefing’ after contact. Click to play the audio clip below. Are there elements of practice you would approach differently after listening to Norma’s response?


4. Sibling contact

After watching this, listen to the audio clip below where a practitioner asks a question about a sibling group where one child does not want to go to contact.


Would you try an incorporate any of this into your practice, either in general or for specific cases?


5. Social media and contact

We need to expect that children are likely to contact birth families online and prepare their carers, their school and talk to the child themselves about the reasons for this and how they are dealing with it.


Listen to the audio clip above. Have you had issues with children or birth families using social networking sites in this way? How do you manage this? Do you have guidance for carers and young people to support them with this?


Further reading

Norma Howes has written a number of Community Care Inform Guides on using a trauma model: