This is a message that Elizabeth Coe, NACCC’s CEO would like communicated far and wide. It is not healthy for children to be deprived of having contact with a loving parent because there is not a space for them and it is not healthy for children to see a parent or family member in a centre for too long either. A child who has not had any contact whatsoever with one or other parent after separation could be experiencing behavioural issues including antisocial behaviour, distress, unhappiness, and both physical and emotional problems. When the option of a child contact centre is found we need to get this set up as soon as possible and this must not be delayed by being put on a waiting list. If a child has to wait for a place to become available then they are deprived of having contact with a loving parent, and this can be damaging.
NACCC’s accredited centres were surveyed in April this year with 28% reporting having a waiting list of either weeks or in some cases, months1.There could be various reasons for a centre having to implement a waiting list but this could be due to families using up a valuable space for too long. Child contact centres need to be used as a stepping stone to more ‘normal’ contact arrangements as soon as possible. Parents need to be aware at the outset that contact centres are a short term solution to keep that vital relationship going for their child whilst they as parents can sort out the way forward.
1. NACCC Quarterly Statistics Return April 2017
“Explain to parents at the pre-visit that they can only use your centre for a limited time…”
Elizabeth has suggested an approach which could help families use your centre for an appropriate amount of time.
At your pre-visit
- Explain to parents that they can only use the centre for a limited time. Ask questions such as ‘How are you going to make arrangements in the future?’
- Promote the Cafcass Parenting Plan and give both parents a copy to take away with them to start completing.
Once contact has started
- Check up on progress with their parenting plans. The Cafcass Parenting Plan introduces the art of compromise and gives parents the tools to start discussing the future.
- Arrange a review meeting (ideally with both parents present) at either 6 or 12 weeks at the latest.
- Promote the use of SPIP, MIAM and GIRFC programmes (Separated Parents Information Programme, Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting and Getting it Right for Children when Parents Part programmes).
And finally Elizabeth has said “If the communication issues between parents are not resolved within 6 months, it is unlikely that this will get sorted – they need to go back to court or seek other help….”