Mobile Phones and Contact Arrangements for Children Living in Care

Geraldine Macdonald, Kathryn Higgins, Grace Kelly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)
323 Downloads (Pure)


This paper reports the findings from the first UK study to examine the use of mobile phones by looked-after children. Whilst contact with family and friends is important, it has sometimes to be carefully managed, to avoid unintended consequences such as placement instability. The study examined the ways in which mobile phone technology impacts on contact, drawing on the experiences of children and young people in foster care and residential care, and of policy makers, social workers, foster parents and residential care staff.

No guidance was available that addressed the issue of mobile phone contact arrangements for looked-after children and young people. Three years on from the start of the study, this remains the case in the area where the study was conducted, resulting in variation in the way mobile phone use for contact is managed; the issue appears only to be specifically addressed when identified as a problem.

The position of mobile phone facilitated contact as a recognised form of contact requires review. The evidence suggests it should routinely form part of children’s care plans, and that residential staff and foster parents need to be adequately prepared and supported for the dynamics of mobile phone facilitated contact.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)828-845
Number of pages18
JournalBritish Journal of Social Work
Issue number3
Early online date13 Jul 2016
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2017


  • contact
  • child maltreatment
  • human rights
  • looked-after children
  • mobile phones
  • safeguarding
  • placement stability


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