It is important that your child is safe when using our services

Child contact services are there for children to maintain or re-establish contact with a parent, grandparent, sibling, other relative, or another person important in their life. It may be that trust has broken down or communication has become difficult following parental separation. If there is a risk of harm to children then a supervised service needs to be used. If you need a neutral venue for contact then you may use a supported service.

Not sure which service you need? Let us help you decide.

Supported contact

Supported contact helps to keep children in touch with parents if trust has broken down or communication is difficult. Parents do not have to meet and several families use the facilities at the same time.

This is a form of contact where the level of risk is assessed to be lower than might be the case for supervised contact. It is also used as a way to progress from supervised contact.

In supported contact, direct observations are not made and reports are not written. Staff or volunteers will be present to ensure the comfort of those engaging in the service.

Tim Lovejoy visits Harpenden Child Contact Centre.

Whilst all contact centres look very different and families use them for a variety of reasons, this video provides an example of the type of set up that might be familiar at a supported child contact service.

Video clip provided courtesy of October Films.

Supervised contact

Is there a potential risk of harm? The centre ensures the physical safety and emotional well-being of children in a one-to-one observed setting.

This form of contact is provided where it is assessed that there might be a higher risk or greater complexity in a families circumstance. These sessions will be supervised by staff who are experienced in this role.

Observations will be made, and reports will be written. It is generally expected that staff will remain within sight and sound of children at all times.

Still not sure if you need Supported or Supervised Child Contact. We have a checklist here that might help.


The centre is used for a short period as a drop off / pick up point. Again, parents do not have to meet.

This is a service offered by some contact centres, in order to support a child moving from one parent to another. Contact will often take place away from a centre with no professional involvement.

Handovers can often be used as a way to progress from supported or supervised contact. Depending on your circumstances, its possible that a mutually trusted person could help with this.

Virtual contact

This is a form of contact that takes place online, using video messaging software like Teams or Skype. Virtual contact can be either supervised or supported.

Virtual contact became a lifeline to families during the pandemic. ACC Dudley Child Contact Centre has kindly shared this tool-kit which helps families to help enhance their interactions over Teams, Skype and other video platforms.

Preparatory sessions / assessment

These can be used to identify the issues that have prevented contact from starting, caused it to break down, or made it unworkable. The focus here will usually be around making recommendations to rebuild relationships.

Preparatory work is a service offered (mostly) by supervised contact centres. This can be offered to adults or children. The aim of this is to prepare people for contact, what it will be like and what emotions they might experience.

Preparatory work can be most effective where people are very anxious or where they have been separated with no or little contact for long periods of time.

Indirect contact

Indirect contact takes place at supervised centres and is used where direct contact is either unsafe, unworkable and or not in the child’s best interests.

This term is a generic term for a wide variety of activities that might be considered contact. These activities can include sending letters or cards (sometimes called “letterbox contact”) or sending gifts.

In this scenario, the role of a professional is often to support this process by ensuring that the gifts are appropriate, and letters do not contain inappropriate messages prior to forwarding these to the child.

This service can be helpful where one parent cannot know the home address of the child.

Community contact

This is a contact service offered by Supervised Centres. Sometimes this will have varying other names, “escorted contact” is one example. Community contact takes place in locations like restaurants, shopping centres, cinemas or soft play centres for example.

This type of contact is not available at all centres and is not appropriate for all families.

Sometimes this will be provided by supervised service without a fixed venue and accredited by NACCC to provide child contact services (CCS). Again, this service might use local community venues to deliver their service or in some cases, contact might take place in family members’ homes, where this is safe and appropriate.

Life story / identity contact

Life Story work is the process of helping children to understand and make sense of their lives. This service is often offered to children living in care, although it can be used for other purposes. The aim of such a service is to help them understand the things that have happened in their lives and therefore to support children to develop a sense of identity and therefore, to reduce emotional distress. Life story often concludes with a product for children to keep and treasure, this might include a book, DVD, treasure box, or various other things.

You may also find our Jargon Buster helpful with all the different terms explained in one place: