Children's contact services

The latest material added to the Australian Institute of Family Studies library database is displayed, up to a maximum of 30 items. Where available online, a link to the document is provided. Many items can be borrowed from the Institute's library via the Interlibrary loan system.

See more resources on Children's contact services in the AIFS library catalogue

COVID-19 and separated families

Smyth B, Moloney L, Brady J, Harman J and Esler M
Canberra, A.C.T. : ANU Centre for Social Research & Methods, 2020.
This paper explores some of challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic is causing for separated families, family law professionals, and family law courts in Australia. It discusses research on separated families and children, what is known about risk for family violence, the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on some of the most vulnerable groups in society, challenges and use of technology by services such as Family Dispute Resolution and Children's Contact Services, urgent applications and use of technology at the Family Court, and what research is needed. Though opportunities exist around rethinking service priorities and processes, the paper highlights the significant challenges that separating families will face.

Child contact, shared care and family law in the context of domestic and family violence and COVID-19: briefing paper

Women's Safety NSW
Haymarket, NSW : Women's Safety NSW, 2020.
This report presents new findings into the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on family violence, focusing on family law issues, It presents the findibgs of two surveys of frontline service workers and service providers from New South Wales, on the impact of COVID-19 on child contact, shared care and family law arrangements in the context of domestic and family violence. 76.8% of respondents had seen an increase in clients who were experiencing issues in relation to child contact, shared care and family law since the outbreak of COVID-19. 67.9% of respondents had seen an increase in the complexity of these cases, such as abusers threatening to infect victims with COVID-19, and 74.4% of respondents had seen women agreeing to child contact with a violent parent due to their own lack of other supports. Apprehended Violence Orders (AVO) and victims on temporary visa are also discussed. The main survey involved 56 workers: an additional survey of 22 workers was also undertaken on child handovers, with 77.3% of those respondents reporting concerns over a lack of safe places being open or available.

Family Law Court orders for supervised contact in custodial disputes - unanswered questions.

Schindeler E
Children Australia v. 44 no. 4 Dec 2019: 194-201
This article reviews the use of supervised child contact by the family court system. This includes managing changeovers by separated parents as well as for supervised access visits, undertaken by child contact centres as well as private persons such as grandparents. The article analyses 103 cases from 2016-2019 to gain insights into how the Family Court makes interim and final orders for supervised contact, the underlying reasons for such orders, and differences for fathers and mothers. The review highlights several concerns with current processes, including the risks for staff of contact centres, the appropriateness for teenage children, and supervision as an indefinite or permanent arrangement rather than as a transitional service.

Interventions to improve supervised contact visits between children in out of home care and their parents : a systematic review.

Bullen T, Taplin S, McArthur M, Humphreys C and Kertesz M
Child and Family Social Work v. 22 no. 2 May 2017: 822-833
This article reviews what is known about how best to deliver supervised contact between children in care and their parents. A systematic review was conducted on interventions aimed at improving the quality of contact visits, identifying 12 research studies. Although there was a lack of rigorous, large-scale studies, the review identified some promising findings.

Supervised access as a stepping stone rather than a destination: a qualitative review of Ontario services & policies for assisting families transitioning from supervised access

Bala N, Saini M and Spitz S
Toronto, ON : Ontario Chapter of the Association of Family & Conciliation Courts, 2016.
"Supervised access or exchange programs are designed to facilitate safe access between a non-custodial parent and child where there are concerns about intimate partner violence, poor parenting, alienation, addiction, mental health or lack of a parent's relationship with the child. In Ontario [Canada], there are three principal types of supervision in custody and access cases: supervision at an access centre funded by the Ministry of the Attorney General; supervision by a private, for-profit service; and supervision by a relative or friend. The Children's Aid Society may also provide supervision, though this generally occurs only in active child protection cases. Supervision is generally intended to be a temporary measure, until the reasons for supervision are addressed. Moving to unsupervised contact is desirable, but not always. While there has been significant research respecting the reasons courts may order supervision, there needs to be further investigation into how families transition out of supervision and how other services (i.e., parenting education, mediation, counseling) can assist this process. reasons courts may order supervision, there needs to be further investigation into how families transition out of supervision and how other services (i.e., parenting education, mediation, counseling) can assist this process. Purpose of this research project: This research project is intended to provide information about supervised access and exchange in Ontario. The focus is to learn more about how families may transition out of supervised access and exchanges, and make recommendations about improving services and policy. Methodology: This project involved a review of literature [of North America], an analysis of reported Ontario case law, and interviews with Ontario Judges, Lawyers and Supervised Access Program providers."--Executive summary.

KContact, an enhanced intervention for contact between children in out-of-home care and their parents : protocol for a cluster randomised controlled trial.

Taplin S, Bullen T, McArthur M, Humphreys C, Kertesz M and Dobbins T
BMC Public Health v. 15 Dec 2015: Article 1134
Institute of Child Protection Studies, Australian Catholic University, Canberra ACT (1,2,3); School of Social Work, University of Melbourne, Melbourne Vic (4,5)

Supporting quality contact visits for children in out-of-home care

Bullen T, Taplin S and Barry E
Watson, ACT : Institute of Child Protection Studies, 2015.
'kContact: Keeping Contact between Parents and Children in Care' is a three year study to develop and trial an enhanced model of managing and supporting contact between children in care and their birth parents in the Australian Capital Territory and Victoria. This paper highlights findings from a literature review conducted for the study, focusing on the ways in which children in out-of-home care and their parents and foster carers can be supported to participate in contact visits.

Children's contact services: key issues

Commerford J and Hunter C
Melbourne, Vic. : Australian Institute of Family Studies, 2015.
Children's Contact Services (CCSs) are independent services that enable children of separated parents to have safe contact with the parent they do not live with, in circumstances where parents are unable to manage their own contact arrangements. This paper describes the characteristics of families using these services and examines whether their needs are being met. It also outlines some of the key issues facing CCSs, including understanding the best interests of the child, the challenges with assisting families to move to self-management of parenting time, and the potential benefits of an integrated social services model.

Family contact for children and young people in out-of-home care: practice paper

Queensland. Dept. of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services
Brisbane, Qld. : Dept. of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services, 2012.
This document provides guidance for organising contact between children and young people in out-of-home care and their families in Queensland. Sections include: What is family contact; Why is family contact important; Practice principles; Contact when a child or young person is placed away from home with parental consent; Contact at the time of removal from home; Contact when a child or young person is subject to a short-term child protection order granting custody or guardianship; Contact when a child or young person is subject to a long-term child protection order; Supervised contact; Deciding to restrict or refuse family contact; and Practice tips.

Literature review on supervised contact between children in out-of-home care and their parents: prepared as part of the study 'kContact - Keeping Contact between Parents and Children in Care'

Bullen T, Taplin S, Kertesz M, Humphreys C and McArthur M
Canberra : Institute of Child Protection Studies, Australian Catholic University, 2015.
This report reviews the Australian and overseas literature on the value, impact, and management of contact between children in out-of-home care and their parents. Sections include: History of contact in OOHC; Theoretical framework for contact; The OOHC population in Australia; Strength of the research evidence on contact; The impact of contact on the child and family; Reasons for facilitating contact and the purpose of contact; Decision-making about contact; and Delivery and management of supervised contacts.

Supervised contact visits : results from a study of women in drug treatment with children in care.

Taplin S and Mattick R
Children and Youth Services Review v. 39 Apr 2014: 65-72
This article looks at child contact within a child protection context. Mothers in treatment for drug dependence in Sydney who had at least one child in out-of-home care were interviewed, regarding their circumstances, drug use and treatment, out of home care arrangements, child contact arrangements, and supervised contact.

Research on Family Support Program family law services: final report

Allen Consulting Group, Australia. Attorney-General's Dept.
Canberra, A.C.T. : Attorney-General's Dept., 2013.
This report was commissioned to review the appropriateness, effectiveness, and value for money of family law services funded under the Federal Government's Family Support Program (FSP). These services include Family Relationship Centres (FRC), Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) and Regional FDR (RFDR), the Parenting Orders Program (POP), Children's Contact Services (CCS), the Supporting Children after Separation Program (SCaSP), and the Family Relationship Advice Line. This report presents the findings and recommendations of the review. The review stems from a 2010 performance audit by the Australia National Audit Office, which recommended that a value for money analysis of the outcomes of FRCs be undertaken.

Children and contact in the context of parental separation and family violence : a practice perspective.

Barker K
Children Australia v. 38 no. 4 Dec 2013: 171-177
Over the past seven years, in my role with Anglicare WA, I have had the privilege of listening to many separated parents share their concerns about their children's safety when spending time with the other parent who has been violent towards them. These concerns include, but are not limited to, trying to prove to the court that their children have been victims of family violence and that this risk will continue and possibly escalate during contact visits. The protective parent often reports that the children continue to be sent on contact visits even when the children experience a significant degree of trauma over their time in the care of the offending parent. In some cases the offending parent has a new partner who is also a victim of family violence and the children are exposed to this violence while on contact visits. Despite disclosures from the children, and efforts to keep them safe by reporting to the statutory agencies, I find that many of these children continue to be sent on contact visits. I am frequently told by the protective parent that when they are in court they are informed that a) there is insufficient evidence to warrant the court preventing the child from spending time with the other (violent) parent; and b) the father has the right to a meaningful relationship with his child and therefore contact will be ordered. It seems that priority is given to the parent's right to spend time with the child at the expense of the child's need, and right, to be safe.

Family Support Program literature review: research into the Family Support Program - family law services

Brown T, Batagol B and Sourdin T
Melbourne, Vic. : Australian Centre for Justice Innovation, Monash University, 2012.
The Australian Government's Family Support Program consists of a range of preventative and early intervention services, which includes legal services such as Family Relationship Centres, family dispute resolution, children's contact services, and relationship advice lines. As part of a broader study, this report reviews the literature on the effectiveness of government-run family law services in Australia as well as best practice in service delivery and performance measurement. Specifically, it investigates: the range of available interventions and services, usage by people from disadvantaged and vulnerable backgrounds and effectiveness in meeting their needs (including people experiencing family violence and Indigenous people), use of technology to deliver services and improving non-face-to-face service delivery, appropriateness of performance and quality measurement arrangements, meeting the needs of families who are in conflict or separating, and meeting the best interests of children. Specific services include: Family Relationship Centres, Family Dispute Resolution services, Regional Family Dispute Resolution services, Post Separation Co-operative Parenting services, Parenting Orders Program, Children's Contact Services, Supporting Children after Separation Program, and Family Relationship Advice Line.

Summary of feedback on Children's Contact Services consultation paper

Australian Children's Contact Services Association Inc.
Australia : Australian Children's Contact Services Association, 2011
The Attorney General's Department is holding an inquiry into children's contact services in Australia. As part of the process, a consultation paper was distributed to service providers, agencies, and other stakeholders in January 2011, highlighting key issues relevant to this service type and seeking feedback and possible solutions to be considered by the Government. 37 submissions were received by July 2011. This document summarises the feedback received on each of the issues raised in the consultation paper.

Decision making principles around contact visits: a literature review

Prasad N
Parramatta, NSW : UnitingCare Children, Young People and Families, 2011.
This paper reviews the research evidence around family contact visits for children in out-of-home care, to better inform practice and decision making around the nature and length of contact for children and young people in UnitingCare Burnside's out-of-home care programs. Sections include: Defining 'contact'; When is contact beneficial for the child or young person?; When is contact harmful for the child or young person?; and Factors and decision making principles around contact.

'Something amazing I guess?' : children's views on having a say about supervised contact.

Fitzgerald R and Graham A
Australian Social Work v. 64 no. 4 Dec 2011: 487-501
This paper reports on a small-scale, qualitative study on children's perspectives about their participation in decision-making processes regarding supervised contact. The paper begins with an overview of the study and a summary of findings in relation to four key research questions framed around the idea of children having a say, that is, children's views and perspectives of their participation in family law decision-making processes. These key questions include: What are children's experiences of having a say? What are children's understandings of having a say? Did children want a say in the decision for them to have supervised contact? How did having (or not having) a say feel? Discussion focuses on what importance children place on having a say in family law matters, a finding that is contrasted with children's experiences of marginalisation and exclusion from decision-making processes and of ambivalence and reluctance sometimes expressed around having a say. Children's idea of having a say as taking place in and through particular forms of dialogue and conversation, thus enabling the recognition of children and respect for what they have to say, are also explored. We conclude by reflecting on the implications of the study for professionals working in family law.

Children having a say: a study on children's participation in family law decision making

Fitzgerald R
"No longer considered objects of concern, children are now understood as entitled to 'have a say' in the decision making that determines post separation residence and contact arrangements. At the same time, though, concerns are being voiced that the rhetoric of children?s participation does not readily translate into practice in the complex reality of family law settings. Significantly, children themselves report that they are unheard in family law decision-making processes and their views are not taken seriously. This study explores the ambiguous and contested nature of children's participation. It draws on the narratives of thirteen children interviewed in relation to their views and experiences of having a say in family law decision making, specifically within the context of supervised contact. Utilising a critical hermeneutic approach, the findings suggest a number of important and inextricable links between children's participation, their recognition, and the ways in which adults engage in and interpret dialogue with children."--Author abstract.

Agency spotlight: Anglicare WA.

Parker R
Family Relationships Quarterly no. 7 2008 10-12
Anglicare WA is a community service organisation in Western Australia which provides a wide range of family and relationship services and training, including counselling, men's programs, post-separation services, children's contact services, parenting order programs, and relationship enhancement courses. This case study profiles their management philosophy, focusing on how Anglicare WA develops, plans, runs, and reviews its relationship education and training programs. For example, Anglicare WA values formal partnerships with other agencies and local ties with community organisations, schools, and churches, which builds community relationships and reduces barriers to seeking help.

Second Biennial Family Relationship Services Program Conference: theme - celebrate, integrate, innovate, inform : final report

Australia. Dept. of Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs. Family Relationship Services Branch
Greenway, ACT : Dept. of Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, 2007.
An overview and summary of outcomes of the 2nd Biennial Family Relationship Services Program Conference, held in August 2007, is presented. The conference aimed to bring together the expanded service provider network across all service types: Early Intervention Services, Family Relationship Centres, Post Separation Services and the Family Relationship Advice Line. The conference themes were celebration, integration, innovation and sharing of information. The conference created the opportunity for networking between family relationship service providers and industry stakeholders; celebration of achievements and sharing of experiences of integrated service delivery and innovations; and showcasing of resources and innovations in service delivery. The first Annual General Meeting of the new industry representative body, Family Relationship Services Australia, and the Annual General Meeting of the Australian Children's Contact Services Association, were held in conjunction with the conference.

A guideline for family law courts and children's contact services: a guideline to enhance the relationship between the Family Law Courts and Children's Contact Services and to facilitate the appropriate use of Children's Contact Services by the Family Law Courts.

Australia. Attorney-General's Dept., Australia. Family Court, Australia. Federal Magistrates Court
Barton, A.C.T. : Attorney-General's Department, 2007.
Family court clients must have attempted to resolve their dispute in a Family Relationships Centre or by other accredited dispute resolution services before they commence family court proceedings. This document sets out guidelines for the referral process from the family courts to children's contact services and suggests ways of dealing with common issues that may arise during a family's use of a children's contact service. It covers factors to be taken into account by the court when referring families to a children's contact service; matters to be considered during a family's involvement with a children's contact service; and moving to self management.

Dealing with child contact issues: a literature review of mechanisms in different jurisdictions

Wasoff F
Edinburgh : Scottish Executive Social Research, 2007.
"This report presents the findings of a small literature review of mechanisms for dealing with child contact issues across jurisdictions in order to inform future discussions ... The mechanisms considered in this review encompass advice, information and education mechanisms (including parenting plans, parenting agreements, parenting education), legislative, court-based and civil law mechanisms, and relationship support and social welfare support and service mechanisms, both those linked to or mandated by the courts and those independent of them. These various mechanisms can be applied in the contexts of contact dispute prevention, resolution or enforcement. The review looks at how some jurisdictions address contact issues where there has been a history of intractable conflict, child abuse or neglect or domestic abuse. A selection of countries with similarities to Scotland are surveyed, including England and Wales, France, Sweden, Denmark, Australia, Canada, the United States and New Zealand."

Divergent expectations and experience : an empirical study of the use children's contact services in Australia.

Sheehan G, Carson R, Fehlberg B, Hunter R, Tomison A, Ip R and Dewar J
International Journal of Law, Policy and the Family v. 21 no. 3 Dec 2007: 275-309
Children's Contact Services (CCSs) assist separated parents to manage contact arrangements with their children by providing supervised contact and changeover services. This article presents findings from the Children's Contact Services Project, which investigated the use and expectations of CCSs in Australia by agencies and parents. The project featured interviews with separated parents, children, and referral agencies, as well as an analysis of client data from 2003. This article discusses the findings and the implications for children's wellbeing.

Intervening in litigated contact : ideas from other jurisdictions.

Hunt J
Maclean, Mavis, ed. Parenting after partnering : containing conflict after separation. Oxford : Hart Publishing, 2007. Onati international series in law and society. 9781841137810: 193-218
Child contact services in England and Wales need to be improved, and critics often praise international services as superior. But is this view correct? Using an evidence-based approach, this chapter investigates practices in comparable jurisdictions, including Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the United States. The author reviews the research and evaluation literature regarding educational programs for separated parents, interventions for high conflict families, therapeutic mediation, post-order support, amplified contact supervision, addressing alleged non-compliance, and involving children. The author examines whether these programs are currently offered in England and Wales, whether they are supported by evidence, and whether they would meet local needs.

Children's contact services in Australia : the referral process.

Fehlberg B and Hunter R
Maclean, Mavis, ed. Parenting after partnering : containing conflict after separation. Oxford : Hart Publishing, 2007. Onati international series in law and society. 9781841137810: 170-191
Children's contact services in Australia negotiate contact and changeover agreements for separated, disputing parents, and provide an independent venue. This chapter investigates entry into the contact services system, focusing on the referral process and the types and contents of court orders. The study draws upon 40 interviews with referral agents, including legal practitioners, psychologists, counsellors, and domestic violence workers, as well as personnel from the Family Court of Australia, Federal Magistrates' Court, and the Magistrates Court of Victoria, conducted as part of the Children's Contact Services Project. The agents discuss the heavy use of court orders to compel participation in contact services, access problems from not notifying contact services prior to making an order, interim orders and final orders, allegations of abuse or domestic violence, intake procedures and waiting lists, the impact of the Family Law Reform Act 1995, and the impact of contact services on legal practice. The chapter concludes with recommendations for best practice.

Moving on : the challenge for children's contact services in Australia.

Sheehan G, Dewar J and Carson R
Maclean, Mavis, ed. Parenting after partnering : containing conflict after separation. Oxford : Hart Publishing, 2007. Onati international series in law and society. 9781841137810: 147-167
Children's contact services in Australia negotiate contact and changeover agreements for separated, disputing parents, and provide an independent venue. Drawing upon findings from the Children's Contact Services Project, this chapter explores how parents and children move on to self-managed, independently arranged contact. The methodology of the Project is briefly discussed, which involved interviews with family members and legal personnel, as well as analysis of data from 396 client families attending contact services. The interviews with parents and children highlight some of the benefits and problems of the service and of changing arrangements, and the differing attitudes to the role of the service as promoting mediation and eventual self-management, or facilitating contact in high-conflict cases.

Supervised contact: the views of parents and staff at three Barnados contact centres in the southern region of New Zealand

Gibbs A and McKenzie M
Wellington N.Z. : Families Commission, 2006
Supervised contact allows a child to see a parent or other significant carer in a safe and controlled environment. This report presents the findings of a study on the views and experiences of parents and staff involved in three supervised contact centres in the southern region of New Zealand. The aims of the study were: to explore the experiences of parents; to identify how staff help parents involved in supervised contact; to identify some of the helpful and hindering factors in supervised contact arrangements and in transitions to unsupervised contact or other arrangements; and to find out if contact services are culturally appropriate.

Making appropriate parenting arrangements in family violence cases: applying the literature to identify promising practices

Jaffe P, Crooks C and Bala N
Ottawa, On. : Dept. of Justice Canada, 2006.
"This paper was written to assist policy makers and practitioners [in Canada] in dealing with the difficult issues that arise in making appropriate post-separation parenting arrangements in cases where there are family violence issues ... This document is based primarily on a literature review of the areas of family violence, child custody and access disputes, and high conflict divorce. In addition, several leading researchers in the area were contacted ... These findings suggest the need for a range of parenting arrangements, including co-parenting, parallel parenting, supervised exchange, supervised access, and no contact. The descriptions, indicators, contra-indicators and considerations for each of these are covered at length in this paper together with case examples."--Executive summary.

Protecting children's rights in contact disputes: the role of children's contact services in Australia.

Sheehan G and Carson R
Family Court Review v. 44 no. 3 Jul 2006 412-428
What is the role of Children's Contact Services (CCS) in protecting children's rights to express their wishes in contact disputes? This article presents findings from the Australian Children's Contact Services Project, which interviewed government, court and legal representatives, and service staff and users; and which analysed data on families who had used one of the services in Queensland or Victoria in August 2003. The article discusses whether contact services are in children's best interests, the importance of listening to children's voices, the role of CCSs in Australia, stopping contact visits due to children's wishes, withdrawing service altogether, and implications for future service practice and the referral process.

Training needs analysis: children's contact services funded by the Australian government.

Ernst and Young
Canberra, ACT : Attorney-General's Department, 2005
On behalf of the Commonwealth government, Ernst and Young carried out a training needs analysis for children's contact services (CCS) funded under the Family Relationship Services Program (FRSP). This report presents the findings of the review, which focused on the development of a high level overview of the training requirements of the children's contact services sector as a whole. The review employed a questionnaire and follow up discussions to identify the role of a CCS and the skill and knowledge requirements of staff in supporting this role.
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