Child contact centres are neutral places where children meet the mother or father who no longer lives at home with them. The centres provide a valuable service in allowing contact to take place which otherwise might not happen. There are two types of child contact services – supported and supervised.
Supported child contact centres are often held in community centres or church halls. They have facilities to help children build up or maintain their bond with the non-resident parent and other family members. Staff and volunteers are available to assist parents and help create a comfortable atmosphere. They also deal with the handover of the child so ex-partners don’t need to meet. The staff are completely impartial and are not there to monitor or write reports about parents. The only things recorded are the dates and times of attendance.
If the contact goes well – and everyone agrees – the next step might be for the parent and child to spend some time together outside of the contact centre. Sometimes the contact centre is used just to help with the handovers. After a while, many parents will feel confident enough that the contact centre is no longer needed.
If you feel that a contact centre would be helpful to you, visit NACCC or talk to your solicitor, social worker, health visitor or doctor. In most cases, you will need a referral.
Supported contact centres are suitable for families where no significant risks have been identified for the child or those around them. Where there are risk factors, supervised contact may be necessary. Supervised contact gives priority to the physical safety and emotional wellbeing of a child. It also assists in building and sustaining positive relationships between a child and members of their non-resident family. This requires skilled supervisors who are confident enough to intervene if necessary and can work with vulnerable children and distressed adults. Referrals will usually be made by a court, CAFCASS officer, local authority, or another child contact centre.