Continuing our informative series of blogs for Child Contact Centre Awareness Week, Paula McGuire interviews one set of parents about their experience of using a centre.
When starting a family, no-one expects to be arranging contact with their child somewhere down the line. It’s no wonder then that Child Contact Centres aren’t at the forefront of everyone’s mind. But isn’t it reassuring to know that there’s a friendly, neutral space to spend those precious hours with your child at what can be a stressful and challenging time?
Relationships Scotland, the organisation behind some of the country’s 45 Contact Centres, are hoping to disperse the uncertainty and encourage families at this difficult stage to take advantage of the services on offer.
One set of parents, Jane and Ian, who have been using a Child Contact Centre since 2011, spoke openly about their experiences of the process and the difference that regular contact has made to their young daughter, Anna.
“At the end of my marriage,” said Jane, “there was just a complete communication breakdown. We split up in the March and, up until about June or July, we used to meet every Saturday, then it became really strained and difficult and it ended completely. Contact didn’t take up again until October in the Contact Centre. It was our first way of getting back to my daughter seeing her daddy.”
Ian added, “I had heard from family members who had friends that had used [Child Contact Centres] many years ago. I wasn’t reluctant, I was happy because it didn’t matter how I got to see my daughter, I wanted to see my daughter. It didn’t matter to me whatsoever.”
Using the Child Contact Centre
“For the first few meetings,” Jane remembered, “having to be in each other’s company, it’s like you make more of an effort because there are other families there and it is just easier to get on.
“These last couple of weekends, I have taken Anna to the Centre and Ian has taken her to the park. That wouldn’t have happened before. Starting off at the centre puts us in a good frame of mind. Anna sees us communicating; it would be weird if she didn’t see that. He is a great dad and it is nice that she sees that I appreciate that – because I do. There’s a lot of feedback and love between them now. You can just see the difference.”
Although parents are not obliged to speak, or even see, each other while at the Child Contact Centre, Ian explained the arrangements for their particular situation: “We do it every Saturday. I say it is a handover point but, over the last eight visits, I have been asking Jane to stay. We talk, we communicate, we are even extending the time and now I am taking my daughter away from the Contact Centre. We are even going shopping together for Anna in the next few weeks – and we’re doing it all through the Contact Centre.
People shouldn’t think of it as an awkward place where you will be supervised. It is an absolutely fantastic place to be. I would tell anybody to go there.”
Jane agreed: “The Contact Centre manager has created such a nice arena for us and we both feel settled and know we can speak to her and she will relay it to the other party, and it feels like a nicer way. I know it won’t be forever but it is like she is helping us build a better foundation.”
When asked to describe the effect the Child Contact Centre has had on their situation, the response was unanimous:
“It has been positive all the way,” said Ian. “Relationships Scotland has helped us in leaps and bounds. There are no words to explain what it has done for my daughter. Because of the Contact Centre, my ex-wife is seeing what it means to our daughter for her dad to be in her life.”
“I cant praise it enough,” Jane continued, “or thank Relationships Scotland enough. If the Centre wasn’t there, we would be a family at loggerheads because there is no safe middle ground otherwise. I can’t think how our lives would have moved on if we hadn’t had this.”
And it seems the Child Contact Centre will be holding onto Jane for a while longer:
“When I am able to, I would like to give something back and volunteer because I know what it is like to be on the other side of it. I dread to think what we would have done if it hadn’t been there.”
There are 45 Child Contact Centres in Scotland. If you, like Jane and Ian, feel that their services could benefit your family, you can check our list of local centres for a service near you.
All names have been changed for the purposes of confidentiality.