Kontaktfamilj : En förebyggande stödinsats eller mellanvård?

Sammanfattning: The contact family is a special intervention for supporting children in families with social problems. The child receives an ‘extra family’ with whom he or she can spend limited periods, like one or two weekends every month, one or two weekday nights and some holiday weeks during the year. The concept is that sharing this ‘extra family’s’ everyday life helps the child to build up resiliency and become better able to handle everyday life in the biological family. The members of the contact family can serve as role models and provide good examples of how to handle such situations as family and sibling conflicts. Sometimes the child finds ‘a significant other’ in the contact family, i.e. an adult who understands the child’s needs, listens to the child’s thoughts and worries and assists in evaluating the child’s cognitive abilities. This form of social support is decided on and paid for by the Social Welfare Service in the community where the child lives with the biological family. This study concerns 50 children living in four municipalities in Sweden who had received contact families in year 2000. It is a longitudinal study conducted over a period of seven years comprising both interviews and analysis of the social service offices’ documentation on each of the 50 children in the study. The empirical material was collected on four occasions (2000, 2003, 2005 and 2007. Interviews were conducted with a number of social workers involved in the cases, 15 of the children, their biological parents and the contact parents. The theoretical foundation for the study is the ecological model of human development, which places the child in the centre surrounded by the four systems and  with the contact family as a possible ‘proximal process’. The analyses were made from the perspective of the social workers’ scope of action and that of the participating children’s perspectives. The results showed that the parents who applied for a contact family (often a single parent, usually the mother) did so in order to obtain some relief from their parental duties and/or because they lacked a social network. The majority of the children had parents with social problems, such as substance addiction, a mental disorder or other health problems. As many as 30 of the children had experienced domestic violence. Nearly 40% had also experienced being placed with a contact family that in periods functioned as a short-term emergency children’s home or foster home. Only two of the children had the possibility to participate in choosing whether or not to have a contact family. Several of the children participated in the ongoing process of arranging for the contact family and in making the decision to terminate the arrangement, or to move in with the contact family as foster children or with the contact family functioning as a form of supported housing.