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separation

New service aims to help children bond with separated parents

Three new pilot Child Contact Centres will offer a safe place for children to spend time with parents they do not live with.

A NEW, FIRST-OF-ITS-KIND service offering a safe and friendly environment for children to meet and spend time with separated parents they live apart from has been launched in Dublin.

The Child Contact Centre service, provided by children’s charity Barnardos and one-parent family support service One Family, launched yesterday with a two-year pilot project in locations in Ballymun, Clondalkin and Tallaght.

The service caters to children whose parents are separated, and who are unable to agree on safe and appropriate arrangements for contact with any parent that they don’t ordinarily live with.

Its goal is to allow children to grow up enjoying a positive relationship with both parents, even when they do not live together.

Similar services were already operational in Northern Ireland and elsewhere in Europe, but had not operated in Ireland before now.

The centres offer a number of contact options include supervised contact between a parent and child, supported contact (where a number of families have contact at the same time) and handover contact, where parents can bring a child to the centre for collection by the other parent.

One Family director Karen Kiernan said her body’s research had underlined a “significant level of unmet need in relation to children of separated parents”.

She added that when compared to international standards, Ireland would probably require as many as 37 similar centres throughout the country.

“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,” Kiernan said.

Francis Chance, assistant director of Children’s Services at Barnardos, said the service would be particularly useful for families who, until now, had been “largely invisible” and experiencing high levels of hurt and distress.

“Family Law courts and judges have had very limited choices as to where to refer parents and children who are having difficulties managing contact. The Child Contact Centres fill that vacuum,” she said.

Referrals to the service can be made at 01 4032085/89/80 on Tuesdays (9:30am – 1pm) or by email to childcontact@onefamily.ie.

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