“I don’t want to let families vanish into the ether with no real plan in place.”

The transition from using a child contact centre to independent contact can be a daunting one, and without some assistance families can feel abandoned if contact stops without a plan being in place. We asked centres about their process for reviewing a family’s contact and how they helped them take the next step to independent contact.

There is some fantastic work being done to ease parents back into co-parenting their children in the community…

The Parenting Plan booklet

Centres are promoting the Parenting Plan as the foundation for this work – introducing it at the previsit… and then going through it at the review. Two supported contact co-ordinators told us how the parenting plan is an essential tool for them…

Carol from Swindon Family Contact Centre told us…

“I introduce the parenting plan to parents at the pre-visit and give them a copy of the book – sometimes going through it as a brief overview. I encourage them to look at the websites once they get home… Some parents ask questions there and then or perhaps once they start coming.The parenting plan is very common sense and easy to follow – it is particularly helpful for the parents that self-refer – they can see how easy it is to fill in. Some parents have seen the book already so I encourage them to carry on with it. It is a useful topic to bring up in conversation – after a few weeks I ask how it is going – was it useful? When I know they are moving on I encourage them to fill it in – this seems to work quite well.”

So, when do to a review?

“It varies; if contact is going well the parents may have been proactive already and be completing the plan, so after 4 sessions I ask how is it going? If there have been a few problems – I’ll leave till about 6 weeks and then do the review. If the family are referred via court – I don’t step in too much – but will go through it before their last court date before having contact in the community. These clients may have extra support anyway…. The parenting plan works particularly well for young clients who may have been referred from social services or other agencies – they appreciate the suggestion that they can show the plan as evidence that are trying to work to improve their situation.”

Amber from Salisbury Child Contact Centre makes use of the various formats available…

“Salisbury Child Contact Centre currently provides the parenting plans to all families if we feel they are ready to move on or the court order has given stop dates. We always encourage the parents to prepare these. We start by introducing the booklet version and then may follow this up with the email version. Once the parents have completed the parenting plans we see if they are happy to meet…to agree a way forward…”

Amber explained how the review meeting works for them

“We had a very small grant to cover our costs of doing this and paid a trained worker with experience to undertake this. We use this as the basis of moving them forward to independent contact but it does require a good facilitator to manage the meeting and seek agreement between both parties… focusing on the short term (1-3 months) is best. For those parents that engage they find these sessions very helpful… As you would expect not all families engage or stick to the parenting plan after contact has finished, however it does provide a safe platform to iron out potential wrinkles prior to independent contact… Expectations are high and we do have to manage a step by step process between both parents. Some families are still very angry and controlling and don’t wish to relinquish any control, so we try and break down the process to the basic steps and then highlight a long term goal that they agree to aim for! Basically we try and encourage families to focus on what’s best for the child/ren…”

So what is the Parenting Plan? 

The Parenting Plan gives you a structure in which you can make your decisions and helps to support this process. This can be much better than the court making decisions for you. The design of the Plan recognises coming to your own arrangements is not necessarily an easy thing to do – feelings can be running high and it can be easy to slip into blaming each other rather than working together for the benefit of your child/children.” ‘The Parenting Plan Guidance’ (Cafcass).

There are different formats to suit… Booklet or online?

To download the Parenting Plan please click on the Adobe Reader icon below. If you do not have the correct software installed then you can download free viewers. ( PDF Reader )

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