Dr Roger Kennedy, The Child and Family Practice, Honorary Senior Lecturer in Psychiatry, Imperial College, London:
Two case studies show where contact with a parent after the placement of children outside the family has been disruptive to the placement. Particular attention is paid to situations where such contact has been retraumatising for the children, and, as a result, has produced increased anxiety and behavioural problems for the children and management issues for the carers. The article argues that, though contact can be beneficial for children, more attention needs to be paid to the disruptive effects of contact between children and abusive parents. Not only can such contact cause immediate disturbance to the child, but also there may be a risk of the placement breaking down. Even if the placement remains stable, it may be very difficult for a child to allow themselves to accept therapeutic help, because of the constant reminder of their past abuse. Therapeutic work needs to take place in the context of trust and stability. But this cannot take place when effectively we are telling them that it is safe to disclose their abuse, and then we put them back into an environment where they have to face the abuser and reminders of the abuse. This, it is maintained, is an impossible situation.
The full version of this article appears in the November 2013 issue of Family Law.