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Supervised Access Service
See Change Family Services Supervised Access facility was established in response to many parents who were seeking a safe, friendly, neutral environment to visit their children. Having identified a gap for a child and parental support service for the growing number of families affected by separation and divorce, for children in care and for children who live with one parent but can only see the other parent with supervision (for safety or other welfare reasons) we designed a service which ensures parental visits are conducted in a way which meets the best interests of the child but which also promotes and maintains the confidence of their parents.
In Ireland, we discovered that there is a problem shortage of places for children to have supervised time with a parent and this often means that family or friends have to step in to act as supervisors, which is not always ideal. In other cases, access is effectively denied, and relationships drift as a result.
3 key areas of support we at See Change provide:
Support Contact Services: this is basically enabling relationships to develop in a neutral venue, and may include the wider extended family. There can be a range of reasons why such a neutral venue is needed, for example; there may be no other suitable neutral space to meet; perhaps they need to meet a long absent parent; or supervision may be required to meet a parent who is now stable but has a history of mental illness or of addiction. Or it can simply be a space for a young parent who needs support and reassurance in dealing with a young child or infant they do not live with to develop the necessary skills.
Supervised Contact : where a child has suffered or is at risk of suffering harm during access – this form of supervision ensures the safety and emotional well-being of the child.
Drop-off and collection service : where parents have concerns over meeting with each other or tend to have disagreements at the time of handover, these can be managed by professionally trained staff. Usually the visiting parent will collect the child from See Change and take them out for the duration of the visit, returning them later for collection by the parent they live with.
We at See Change strive to foster and promote positive parental relationships that otherwise may suffer from lack of contact and can provide a safe and neutral venue for children to develop a relationship with a parent they do not live with, in a safe and protected way. We offer support to both parents and children, and may also support members of the wider extended family. Families are sometimes referred to our service through the Family Court though many others, recognising the benefits, choose to engage our services voluntarily.
Our rooms are light and spacious and we provide art and craft materials, board games and toys (always age appropriate) to encourage meaningful interaction.
Berni, herself a mother of three, who heads up this service has extensive experience in working with children and young people in a social care setting. She is a qualified Social Care Practitioner and also a certified Life Coach and holds a Professional Certificate in Children & Loss (Irish Royal College of Surgeons).
Benefits of the Supervised Access service in brief:
- We provide a safe setting that allows children to develop or renew a healthy relationship with the visiting parent.
- It can reduce conflict, and make sure that no one will be hurt or unfairly blamed for trying to do harm.
- It can offer an opportunity to strengthen good parenting skills.
- It provides time for trust to develop between parents and children.
- The procedures and ground rules from the initial intake to the final visit are designed to support every family member and reduce risk.
- To provide a safe, neutral and child-focused setting for visits between a child and non-custodial parent or other family member.
- To ensure the safety of all participants, including staff.
- To provide trained staff who are sensitive to the needs of the child.
- To provide reports of factual observations about the participants’ use of the service.
- For the Child: It allows the child to maintain a relationship with both parents.
- Children can anticipate the visits without the stress of worrying about what is going to happen, and enjoy their time in a safe, comfortable environment.
- For the visiting parent: The security of a monitored access visit which can remove worry of potential wrongful allegations.
- For the custodial parent: Supervised Access arrangements are made through See Change Practice, so you don’t have any contact before, during or after the visit with a person with whom you are in conflict. In the safe atmosphere provided by See Change, you can allow your child to have contact with the other parent without worry, and even enjoy some time for yourself.
Helpful tips for separating parents
This is a worrying time for you as well as for your children. Here are some guidelines to help you help your children while you are facing separation or divorce.
What should I tell my children about their parents separating?
Four golden rules:
1. It is not their fault
Many children believe it is their fault you are splitting up. Tell them it is not their fault, and keep telling them. This is particularly important with younger children who live in a world that is part reality and part fantasy. It is easy for young children to believe that the breakup is their fault and that they can stop it be wishing hard enough.
2. Tell them what is happening
Children need to know what is happening and how they will be affected by your separation. Relationship breakdown is hard on everyone in the family. The difference with children is they have no power over what is going on. They need to know what is happening in their family. Children need to hear age-appropriate reasons for your separation/divorce. This includes specific details about the time they will be spending with those they love – both of you, their grandparents, babysitters and even a pet. They do not need to hear about your anger or your blame. Children need to know that both their parents love them and will continue to care for them.
3. Listen to your children
One of the greatest problems for children when their parents split up is accepting a situation and new arrangements they feel they have no say in. Children want to be consulted about decisions affecting them and they want to be listened to. Be prepared for various forms of the question “why?” Simply acknowledging young children’s sadness, anger, frustration or whatever they feel can go a long way towards helping them accept the many changes in their lives. However they do not want to have the ultimate responsibility for decision making. Children understand fairness and the difference between giving input and making decisions. Some children may not want to be included in your decision making.
Children need the chance to ask questions and talk about their feelings but they may not always be ready to talk about them when you are. Give them many opportunities for talks with you. Ask children for input when you are not sure how to handle a situation. You don’t have to act on their suggestions but it may provide some insights. But don’t ask. “Where do you want to live with?”
4. Don’t fight in front of them
Children are most distressed when the fight is about them. Fighting in front of the children, or saying hurtful things about the partner you are splitting up from, hurts them. When you put each other down you put your children down as well. Remember your conflict can by very damaging to your children. Children do not want to take side.
A child’s list of wants
What I need from my mum and dad:
- I need both of you to stay involved in my life. Please write letters, make phone calls, and ask me lots of questions. When you don’t stay involved, I feel like I’m not important and that you don’t really love me.
- Please stop fighting and work hard to get along with each other. Try to agree on matters related to me. When you fight about me, I think that I did something wrong and I feel guilty.
- I want to love you both and enjoy the time that I spend with each of you. Please support me and the time that I spend with each of you. If you act jealous or upset, I feel like I need to take sides and love one parent more than the other.
- Please communicate directly with my other parent so that I don’t have to carry messages back and forth.
- When talking about my other parent, please say only nice things, or don’t say anything at all. When you say mean, unkind things about my other parent, I feel like you are expecting me to take your side.
- Please remember that I want both of you to be a part of my life. I count on my mum and dad to raise me, to teach me what is important, and to help me when I have problems.