05 April 2012

Fitzgerald Opens Child Contact Service in Clondalkin

Local T.D, Minister Frances Fitzgerald, this week launched a new service for children whose parents are separated and who are unable to agree safe and appropriate arrangements for contact. The first-of-its kind in Ireland, the Child Contact Centre in Clondalkin’s Quarryvale is a service provided by Barnardos, Ireland’s leading independent children’s charity, and One Family, Ireland’s leading organisation for one-parent families. It is operating on a two year pilot in three locations in Dublin: Ballymun, Clondalkin and Tallaght.

“I was delighted to launch this fantastic new service in Clondalkin this week. I've long been a supporter of the work of the Quarryvale Family Resource Centre and am particularly pleased that this important new service is now available at this centre,” said Minister Frances Fitzgerald.

“A Child Contact Centre is a safe, friendly and neutral place where children can spend time with the parent(s) they do not live with. The aim of the service is to enable children, where possible, to grow up enjoying a positive relationship with both of their parents, even when they don’t live together. Specialist contact centres for children and families involved in marriage and relationship breakdown are common in many countries throughout Europe including Northern Ireland. The Centre’s are a joint effort between Barnardos & One Family and are already providing huge assistance to families right across Clondalkin, Tallaght and Ballymun,” said Minister Fitzgerald.

“At the event we learned exactly what families and children using this service are saying about it; and it’s very clear that this facility is making a huge difference to children’s lives. Separations can be very tough on children and they can be traumatic if communication between parents has broken down to the extent that they cannot agree contact arrangements for the child. This service now provides a totally neutral facility and safe space for children to have contact with the parent they are not living with. It also offers supports to the parents in terms of counseling and assistance,” explained Minister Fitzgerald.

The Child Contact Centre service provides a range of contact options including, supervised contact – where contact is supervised for one family at a time; supported contact – where contact is provided for a number of families at the same time, and handover contact – where an arrangement is agreed for one parent to bring their child to the contact centre to be collected by the other parent, without the parents needing to meet. Parents are offered additional family supports like counselling and a key worker to assist them in addressing the issues that led to them to needing to use a Child Contact Centre service, so that they can move on to self-arranged contact over time.

Karen Kiernan, Director of One Family explained, ‘The need for the service was identified in research carried out by One Family (Supporting Child Contact: the Need for Child Contact Centres in Ireland – Family Support Agency, 2010) which clearly identified a significant level of unmet need in relation to children of separated parents. The report shows that based on international provision, Ireland could require 37 such centres throughout the country.’

'During the course of that research we consulted parents, legal professionals and family support workers and there is overwhelming support for such services. They are particularly vital in situations where there are high levels of conflict between parents, where a parent has had little previous contact with his or her children, or where there are concerns over the safety of the child,’ continued Ms Kiernan.

The Barnardos & One Family Child Contact Centre pilot service is now fully operational in Ballymun, Clondalkin and Tallaght, with significant demand for the service from families, many of whom are involved in court proceedings. Since opening its doors, the service is actively supporting 28 families to create opportunities to have quality time together, some of whom having been out of one another’s lives for many years.

The pilot of the Barnardos & One Family Child Contact Centre service is supported by a team of 28 volunteers who have been trained to assist in the provision of supported contact. The service is funded by: The Department of Children and Youth Affairs, The Family Support Agency, The Health Service Executive and Ballymun Regeneration.

Ms Kiernan concluded, ‘We very much appreciate the co-operation and support we are receiving from Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald, her Department and our other funders. We look forward to rolling out of this much needed service throughout the country, in the future.’

Anyone can make a referral to the service by contacting Barnardos & One Family Child Contact Centre at childcontact@onefamily.ie or on 01 4032085/89/80 on Tuesdays from 9.30am – 1pm.