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Understanding the Behaviour of Children in Care before and after Parental Contact

  • Frank Ainsworth (a1) and Patricia Hansen (a2) (a3)


It is not uncommon to hear foster carers and child protection case workers comment about a child's behaviour both before and after parental contact. Frequently these comments are negative, the view being expressed that contact should be reduced because the children get upset at seeing their parents for a limited time, and then at having to separate from them. The child's resultant distress seems too difficult to manage for foster carers. Some foster parents even go so far as to suggest that parental contact should completely cease. This article sets out the rationale for parent–child contact after a Children's Court has ruled that there is “no realistic possibility of restoration” of a child to parental care. In doing so, the article revisits many of the old arguments put forward for reducing parent contact. However, alternative ways of approaching children's difficult behaviours both pre- and post-contact are also proposed to suggest different ways of managing these behaviours. The legislation and child protection practice in New South Wales provides the frame of reference for this article.


Corresponding author

addresses for correspondence: Frank Ainsworth, Senior Principal Research Fellow (Adjunct), School of Social Work and Community Welfare, James Cook University, Townsville Campus, Townsville, QLD 4811, Australia. E-mail:


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Understanding the Behaviour of Children in Care before and after Parental Contact

  • Frank Ainsworth (a1) and Patricia Hansen (a2) (a3)


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