Innovative practice in child contact - spotlight feature

Update as at 30 March 2020

Times have never been harder for children and families using Child Contact Services. There is very justified anxiety about being unable to attend child contact centres as a result of the Coronavirus. This information has been written to highlight NACCC Members that have gone above and beyond ensuring that arrangements are in place for children to be able to have contact in a safe and planned way without the need to be in the same place at the same time.

It is likely to be the case that other centres do have something in place, so whilst any of the centres below will be able to assist, it might also be worth visiting the Find a Centre page on the NACCC Website to see what services local to you are able to provide.

It is also worth noting that in the case of the services below there are no geographical issues to consider because of the nature or services being offered online.

Please note that NACCC is not recommending any provider over another, we are sharing this for information purposes only:

Spotlight 1: DMR Services

DMR Services recognise the importance of maintaining contact between children and their non-resident family members where appropriate. In response to COVID-19, we are now operating virtual contact services for children and their families. Our virtual contact service offers fully supervised, video and voice contact for children and families in self-isolation. This service differs greatly from platforms such as Skype and Facetime, ensuring contacts remain fully supervised, safe and beneficial for children.

Referrals are being accepted nationally under both private and public law arrangements.

Referrals should be directed to referrals@dmrservices.co.uk or by calling 0121 352 1844 for further information, you could also visit www.dmrservices.co.uk

Spotlight 2: Family Ties Contact Services Ltd

Family Ties are an innovative child contact service with a passion for meeting the needs of children and families. The centre has been able to work with a system based upon Skype to enable even the highest risk families to have supervised contact. The system has safeguards built into it so that Contact Supervisors are able to fully control the system therefore minimising risks to children. Furthermore, the system in place also has mechanisms for ensuring that contact information is not shared with those engaging in the contact sessions. The consequence of this is that they are able to adequately protect those that might be at risk as a result of people being able to make contact with them. This might be particularly pertinent in cases where domestic abuse is characteristic.

To make a referral, or for anything else please do make contact with us:

Tel: 0800 368 9765

Email: info@familytiescs.com

Web: www.familytiescs.com

Family Ties have been working with supported contact centres throughout the country, sharing their technological resources and expertise, to ensure that families are not disadvantaged by centres closing.

Furthermore, we are now also partnering with NACCC to reach as many families as possible and have steps in place to ensure that finance is not a barrier to this type of child contact. Further information about this project will be available on the NACCC website shortly.

Please do contact us for further information about how we might be able to assist further.

Spotlight 3: AG Contact Centres

AG Contact Centres continue to support families during the COVID-19 crisis. AG Contact Centres, nationally, remain committed to supporting families during this challenging time. Although we have been forced to close our centres in response to the government's advice on the need for lockdown of non-essential services, we can rely our proven, technology-based systems to help families stay connected whenever possible. For the time being, our contact centres have began facilitating video-based introductory meetings with parents (Private Law). This process enables families to complete this initial phase without the need to wait for lock-down restrictions to be lifted. This way, families will be 'ready to go’ with physical contact sessions immediately upon restrictions easing. In the interim, some will choose to proceed to indirect- contact arrangements.

Our contact supervisors can quickly and competently train and support parents and carers in the use of free video/telephone conferencing software on any of their devices. Furthermore, our contact workers remain in control of the session throughout. Such a working environment also ensures user confidentiality and protection of personal details (participants would not have access to other parties’ contact details, such as email addresses or phone numbers). AGCC’s parent company, AG Family Support Ltd, is also rolling out this service to local authorities across the UK in order to help deliver contact services to families involved in care proceedings.

Please contact us for more details.

Tel: 01273 841300

Email: contact.centres@agfamilysupport.com

Web: www.agfamilysupport.com/contactcentres

Spotlight 4: Swan Family Centres

Swan Family are committed to facilitating and maintaining contact between children and their non-resident family members, and are in light of COVID-19 restrictions operating an online service for supervised contact, providing contact for families regardless of location. This allows families, whether in court proceedings or not, to stay in touch and maintain relationships in spite of social-distancing restrictions. This can be particularly important for the emotional wellbeing of children and to reassure them during this time of uncertainty and change. Our 9 Centres are now all operating virtually, with availability to accommodate new referrals and requests at short notice and without waiting lists. In order to minimize further disruption to contact, new contacts can be set up quickly, with  pre-contact meetings conducted online prior to the first session. 

The Child continues to be at the heart of our service, therefore the same safeguarding processes and procedures are followed online, adhering to NACCC guidelines. The audio/video call is fully supervised by a trained and qualified Contact Supervisor to ensure safe contact is maintained and children are fully safeguarded throughout. The supervisors can intervene and advise as necessary, and there is a function for the audio/video to be quickly stopped and contact terminated in case of inappropriate behavior or conversation during the video call. An evidence-based report is also provided for each session, which can be used for Court purposes.

The speedy set-up of our online contact service has minimized disruption to family contact and quickly alleviated children, young people and their families’ fears of not being able to keep in touch due to social distancing guidelines. Virtual contact is sustainable in the long term, for as long as is required during COVID-19.

Our online service has been thoroughly vetted, to ensure the security and protection of personal and confidential information and is supported by the various Local Authorities that we work with. We provide full support and guidance to families in setting up and accessing the online service, as well as tips and ideas for positive virtual contact. 

Please visit https://www.swanstaff.co.uk/swan-family-enquiry  to complete a referral or email marketing@swanstaff.co.uk  Alternatively, call 0151 318 1236

Spotlight 5: Chances Gives Choices

Chances Gives Choices (CGC) since opening their doors August 2014 have one passion "keeping families together, giving parents their chance to get it right for their child and the future". Our passion remains the same during the current COVID-19 Pandemic. It is vital that during these times contact remains in place to support the children and non-residential adults. Upon the announcement 23.03.2020 ordering current lockdown measure CGC closed for face to face sessions. CGC advised current clients that SVC (Supervised Video Calling) service is now available for the interim period. CGC current clients are automatically able to access our SVC (Supervised Video Calling), where achievable we are seeking to facilitate as per their current schedule. Variable factors will of course impact as to whether this is suitable for clients such as the age of the children within the family. 

CGC opened SVC this service for new clients as of 25.03.2020 and to acknowledge the circumstances the referral fee is reduced for £100.00 to a simple £5.00 admin fee, the same safety measures are in place for new referrals with pre visit meetings facilitated online, upon completion of both pre visit meetings the schedule for the family is communicated to both parties.

CGC has 6 centres now able to support SVC for separated families. Our referral process has always been as fast and safe as possible regardless of the current times, this remains in place 24 hours for urgent referrals and a maximum of 7 days for non-urgent, this includes public and private law families. CGC recognises the dynamics of non-molestation orders and confidentiality also using this service. 

Information about how SVC can work confidentially for you can be accessed via our website https://www.chancesgiveschoices.com/

The fastest way to access this service is via our online submission form and for those that will be progressing to face to face supervision with CGC a full referral is also completed. The referral fee however has been reduced from £100 to £5. Call 0179516622, visit our website www.chancesgiveschoices.com or email us contact@chancesgiveschoices.com for further details.

Spotlight 6: Glamorgan House FDC in Swansea

“Glamorgan House FDC in Swansea” started  Virtual Contact Services last Saturday (04.04.20) via Zoom when two absent parents had Supervised Contact with their children. One child celebrated her birthday with the absent parent, (with birthday cake, blowing of candles, singing of happy birthday and mutual opening of presents!!) Everyone enjoyed the session and both sets of children were disappointed that the session had to end.

We are  now offering the Virtual Contact Services to all suitable cases, both Supervised and Supported sessions throughout Wales, and beyond as number of our visiting parents live in different counties of England. We feel that Virtual Contact Services are positive way of ensuring some contact between the children and their absent parents in the current “ Locked in”.

Please contact us for more details.

Tel: 01792 470003

Email: glamorganhousefdc@gmail.com

Web: http://glamorganhousefdc.cymru/

Spotlight 7: Our Family Wizard

During these unprecedented times, OurFamilyWizard is dedicated to finding the most effective ways to help families communicate from separate homes. Through isolation and social distancing, households will experience new dynamics and routines, and this can be particularly challenging for children. As a communication tool for families, we believe it is vital to support co-parents and children in their efforts to stay connected.

Using OurFamilyWizard, co-parents can stay connected and share information about their children while keeping a thorough record of all of their interactions. The following tools on OurFamilyWizard may be particularly useful to co-parents throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.

  • Moments in the OFW Journal can be used to share photos, videos, and written accounts of events that take place in a family. Moments allow you to share family memories within a platform that is entirely separate from social media, allowing you to share what you need with only your co-parent or extended family.

  • Check-ins in the OFW Journal create an easy way for co-parents to accurately document parenting changeovers or visits as they take place. With each Check-in, parents are required to tag a location within 500 feet of their current physical location. The OFW app will only access your location as you are tagging it to an entry in the OFW Journal.

  • Time Swaps in the OFW Calendar provide a simple form for requesting and documenting one-time adjustments to the regular parenting schedule. This tool supports co-parents in being more flexible with parenting time and keeping on top of what the actual child arrangements were every day

  • The Health section of the OFW Info Bank is the space where co-parents can document the most relevant health-related data for each of their children. This can include allergies, lists of medications, medical test results, and more.

  • Also within the Info Bank, MyFiles is a space for parents to upload and share important files. This can include information related to your child's healthcare, school-related documents like homework or communication from teachers, or a copy of your child arrangements agreement.

  • Tips & Tricks section of the OurFamilyWizard website includes step-by-step instructions with images for using every tool within the platform for parents and practitioners.

    If you need additional assistance with any tool or have questions, our dedicated Customer Support team is available seven days a week by phone and email.