2E Relationship breakdown and re-partnering
More than supervised contact? An integrative therapeutic model promotes safer contact and progression to self-management
Children’s Contact Services (CCSs) provide service to highly complex and vulnerable families, with most families having experienced two to five problems such as family violence or child maltreatment, entrenched parental conflict, substance misuse or mental health issues, and reintroduction of a parent (Kelly, 2011).
Some CCSs hold the position that they should purely observe parent/child interactions in a passive role, without intervening or providing an integrated social services model. However, researchers recommend that families should receive an integrative therapeutic service model, in order to give them the best opportunity to address the safety risks that led to a Court Order for supervised time in the first place, and to therefore make self-managed contact arrangements a possible future option (e.g. Commerford & Hunter, 2015). This model provides families with a better opportunity to safely repair and develop parent-child relationships, and provides increased scope to monitor ongoing risks for families and to allow children more spaces to process their supervised time experiences. Without the provision of an integrated social services model, supervised time may increase risk of harm to children, particularly if supervised time terminates early due to unaddressed risks, or if families move to self-management before it is safe to do so (Kelly, 2011; Sheehan et al., 2005). Providing an integrated therapeutic services model to assist the safe progression of families from supervised contact is seen as increasingly important given the significant waitlists of most funded CCSs.
Accordingly, the Sydney Children’s Contact Service has implemented an integrative therapeutic case management model, which involves referring families to other family relationship services – including parenting order programs, men’s behaviour change, family dispute resolution and parent education providers – and liaising with these services to provide a coordinated approach to addressing areas of concern, and to facilitate the safe repair of parent-child relationships. Our service shares information about safety concerns and family progress with the Family Court, so that they can receive a clearer view of any ongoing risks to assist in their decision-making of the readiness of families for less-supervised forms of contact.
This presentation will discuss how this collaborative model of practice works, and whether this model has demonstrated effectiveness in promoting safety and change in families to progress towards self-managed contact. We will also provide suggestions for how the above mentioned family relationships services can collaborate with CCSs to support the particular needs of these families, such as trauma-informed relationship repair.
Dr. Lauren Kadwell and Courtney Jacques are co-Coordinators of the Sydney Children’s Contact Service. Lauren is currently the NSW representative on the Australian Children’s Contact Services Association Board. Both presenters have been involved in interagency Family Law networks to improve collaborative relationships between Children’s Contact Services and Family Law Courts.