Margaret Kertesz

Biography

Dr Margaret Kertesz is a senior research fellow in the University of Melbourne Department of Social Work. With a background in both historical research and social work, Margaret has worked in the Child and Family Welfare sector for two decades, both in out-of-home care service provision and as a researcher.

Abstract

Research to date suggests that, for children growing up in out-of-home care, connections with family and cultural background are critical for good psychological outcomes. Positive and well-managed contact between children in care and their family is a connective strategy that supports promotes emotional and psychological well-being, through developing relationships with family members. However, researchers have also warned that poorly planned and poor quality contact may in fact be harmful, particularly where there is a history of maltreatment.

The kContact research project is a partnership of academic researchers and OOHC agencies in Victoria and the ACT, aiming to build evidence of good contact practice. Many discussions throughout the research period have highlighted gaps in our knowledge about which children in care are having contact with their families or have lost contact with them altogether, and the implications for how the sector works with parents at different stages of the child’s placement journey.
In a nested study within the wider kContact research, the research team mapped the contact arrangements of more than 1000 children in foster and kinship care with kContact agency partner programs over the preceding 12 months. The data shows a drop in contact between children and their parents when case plans reject the possibility of reunification. Given research evidence for the importance of continuing connections between children in care and their families, an approach will be raised for discussion that focuses on connection, with contact just one of a repertoire of strategies.

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