DEFINITION OF A ‘SUPERVISED VISIT’'
A Supervised Visit refers to time shared between a child and a visiting parent which occurs in the presence of an independent third person. The third person, when this is A Peace of Mind staff member, is frequently referred to as the supervisor or Case Manager. A Supervised Visit may result from:
A formal or informal agreement between the relevant parties, including agreements reached through family dispute resolution processes
An order of a court made with the consent of the parties
An order made following determination by a Judge or Magistrate
PURPOSES OF CHILDREN’S CONTACT SERVICES
The primary purposes of Peace of Mind Children's Contact Services are:
To promote the safety and welfare of the child during changeovers and visits
To promote the safety of any vulnerable persons at changeovers and visits
To facilitate child/parent and child/sibling interaction while visits are taking place
Where appropriate, to work towards the independent, parental management of the time the child spends with each parent
That is, Peace of Mind are primarily focused on practical supervision and/or facilitation of the time the child spends with a parent they don’t live with. It is noted that Peace of Mind do have purposes beyond the aforementioned primary functions.
There are four broad types of supervision / visit facilitation. These are:
Low risk factors: This is appropriate only for cases where a thorough assessment and a series of previous positive visits has supported the conclusion that risk factors are minimal. The service may be provided on site or in some instances, off site and it may include supervision of changeovers or supervision of contact. This service type consists of general monitoring and facilitation. The service’s aim is to promote healthy relationships and improve or develop an ability to independently manage arrangements. Peace of Mind may work in close co-operation with other services, such as the Parenting Orders Programs (POPs), Family Relationship Centres (FRC’s) or relationship counselling services to help achieve improved relationships and independent management of arrangements.
High risk factors: This type of supervision may be assessed as appropriate in cases involving high degrees of parental conflict, inadequate parenting capacity, manageable abduction risks, low risk of potential violence cases and parent’s substance abuse or psychological problems that are being effectively managed. Peace of Mind supervised contact may be provided on site or very rarely and only after due consideration has been made of all of the relevant issues, off site. The service offered will be either supervision of changeovers or supervision of visits. The service aims to assist to ensure the safety and welfare of the child and the safety of vulnerable parents as well as supporting the child/parent relationship during the visits. In some cases independent management of arrangements will be seen by the parties as a desirable and/or viable medium or long term goal.
Higher risk factors: this service must be provided on site at a child appropriate facility, within the other parents’ home environment, or rental of private room organised by the parent/s. It consists of highly vigilant supervision where more serious risks or difficulties than those noted above are assessed and only where the service is equipped to deal with more these highly conflicted situations. Allegations of family violence and/or sexual abuse are likely to be presented amongst the issues cited.
The primary concern is the safety and welfare of the child and of others involved in the arrangements. In most cases, at this level, independent management of contact will not be a viable goal in the mid or long term and Peace of Mind needs to assess the capacity that we have to engage in longer term delivery of service.
This type of supervision is resource intensive and requires staff with high skill levels. Specific training – e.g in family violence or sexual abuse – for any staff who are to supervise such visits. Where such cases are undertaken, Peace of Mind closely monitors and facilitates the parent/child visit and the appropriateness of continuing to provide service remains under constant review.
At all times Peace of Mind may consider that the risks and needs are such that providing supervision may not be feasible for our service.
Therapeutic supervision: is provided on-site at a child appropriate facility, within the other parents’ home environment, or rental of private room organised by the parent/s by a duly qualified professional who has also completed Peace of Mind induction training. This supervision is to also be attended by at least one other Peace of Mind worker with relevant tertiary qualifications.
Services need to have comprehensive assessment processes in place. The information received and evaluated during on-going assessment provides the basis for the development of a specific service plan. The degree of vigilance, the goals of supervision and the referrals made to other service providers will vary from case to case.
It must also be noted that Peace of Mind afford a high vigilance status to the initial visits of all client families. A lack of resources and expertise may be significant determinants of what is possible but will never be used as a rationale for compromising the safety of all involved.
WHEN SHOULD SUPERVISED VISITS OCCUR/BE PROVIDED?
The decision about whether child/parent contact is in the best interests of the child or otherwise appropriate will initially be one for the parents and the courts. It is not, however, possible for any agency or body (including the courts) to order or direct Peace of Mind to provide supervision in a particular case. Peace of Mind must decide which cases we will accept and which we will not engage with. This is distinct from the decision as to whether child/parent contact is appropriate. The role of Peace of Mind will be to determine whether it will take on a particular family. Central to this will be an assessment of the type of supervision which is required and whether Peace of Mind can, and are willing to act upon the assessment made. The service can decline to continue the service for a particular family at any time. Peace of Mind will immediately suspend or cease to provide supervision if it is assessed by staff members that the child is being or is in danger of being, adversely affected by the arrangements or any other risk factors that are unmanageable.
The possible clients of Peace of Mind are children and:
Their parents, siblings, other extended family members such as grandparents and others who may be significant in the child’s life;
Other people permitted by the parents, or by the relevant parent and by the court to visit the child.
Peace of Mind Children's Contact Services, whatever form the service takes, will:
Promote the welfare of the child;
Be independent; be accessible; assist to ensure safety; be welcoming; facilitate parent/child interaction during contact where appropriate;
Assist to overcome factors in the parent/parent interaction which adversely impact on contact and be linked to other service providers who can provide any additional support required by family members.
Promote the welfare of the child:
Subject to the precondition of the safety of all relevant people, the emotional and physical welfare of the child is the principle concern of Peace of Mind. Any intervention of the service should benefit the child and not expose the child to harm or danger.
Peace of Mind are child-focused and this is operationalised through:
Child orientation and familiarisation sessions for all children prior to any service use being established;
Listening to children’s needs and concerns and addressing them where possible, including information about children’s needs in parent interviews and assessments;
Relevant staff training;
Facilities that are geared to children’s activities and interests;
Being flexible where possible to providing an environment that is sensitive to the cultural and ethnic needs of the child’s community;
Policies for child refusal that help prevent re-victimisation/traumatisation of the child.
The welfare of the child has, amongst other things, implications in relation to confidentiality and the limits to confidentiality. Peace of Mind establish and maintain clear guidelines on maintenance of confidentiality, duty of care and mandatory reporting requirements.
Services will try to aim to be as locationally, linguistically, culturally, environmentally and financially accessible as possible. Services will aim to be accessible to adults and children with a disability. The diversity of client needs will be recognised and, as far as possible, accommodated.
Services will be independent from the parties, the parental dispute and from other bodies or individuals involved in the family situation. Peace of Mind will independently determine whether we are prepared to provide service and are able to accommodate each family.
Circumstances where one or both parents cannot manage situational or personal disputes which intercede upon the maintenance of independent service provided by Peace of Mind and that of staff, carefully managed mediation will be offered and/or referral counselling offered after consultation with an Advisory group or individual.
Where one or both of the parents may cease to view the service as independent in relation to the dispute or difficulty, Peace of Mind will also make its policy guidelines and assessment processes available to both service users.
Facilitate resolution of parent/parent interaction issues: In cases where independent management of arrangements is assessed as being a viable goal of the parties, services will aim, where possible and appropriate, to help address the practical aspects of parent/parent interaction which adversely impact on arrangements. This may be progressed only while remaining within the bounds of the service’s role and level of expertise. Any such process should be managed carefully and it is recommended that the support of other Family Relationship Services Programs be canvassed to assist parties in further resolving their parenting issues. Safety must never be compromised in the pursuit of developing parent/parent interaction.
Some problems such as substance use, family violence, underdeveloped parenting capacity, mental illness, post separation grieving, depression and child abuse are not things which the parents can sort out together. It is clear, in such instances, that the solution lies with an individual. Peace of Mind will be realistic and be aware of the differences between issues where there may be a possible solution through joint effort and issues where the solution lies with one of the adults.
Linked to other service providers: It is accepted that most families who use Peace of Mind services have a complex profile of personal and relationship issues. It is therefore important for Peace of Mind to develop solid working relationships and cohesive referral pathways with a range of human service providers, in order to offer broad assistance to family members who present at the service.
Peace of Mind staff are trained in assessing the needs of family members and in discussing perceptions and recommendations with Peace of Mind coordinators prior to any referral being made.
Peace of Mind staff are also aware of the limits of their professional capacity and the specific boundaries of the service to be provided. Referral to another human service for a specific need is required when that need is outside of Peace of Mind’s brief.
STRUCTURE OF SERVICES
LEGAL OBLIGATIONS & INSURANCE
ABS registration is a standard prerequisite for Peace of Mind and it is therefore a prerequisite for Peace of Mind or the body which auspices the service.
Peace of Mind services comply with obligations under relevant legislation, such as that dealing with equal opportunity and anti-discrimination, occupational safety, superannuation, workers compensation and training.
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
Although Peace of Mind may be operated by bodies having other functions; the other functions and the nature of the body will be consistent with, and not impede, the ability of Peace of Mind to meet standards.
Peace of Mind may well employee other qualified staff who may take on broader roles such as counselor or primary dispute resolution because:
These are specialist activities requiring specific training and qualification;
The service would be duplicating existing services;
One or both of the parents may cease to view the service as independent in relation to any dispute or difficulty arising during supervised contact.
Remote regions where limited services are available to the community.
Any delivery of counselling and primary dispute resolution to Peace of Mind clients in these circumstances must be carefully managed to maximise the benefit to clients and support the maintenance of independent Peace of Mind service delivery.
Peace of Mind will also make information about the operation of Peace of Mind, its policy guidelines and assessment processes available to likely referral points to assist in the making of effective referrals, where ongoing disputes between parents are not resolved. This information will be available to both service users.
ADVISORY OR MANAGEMENT GROUP
Peace of Mind’s children’s Contact Services may have a suitably knowledgeable and/or orientated management group or advisory group or Individual, and Peace of Mind may opt for convening both.
The Advisory Group or Individual, may be comprised of people who are broadly representative of the community in which the service operates. The expertise of the members of the advisory or management group may enhance the ability of the service to meet these standards and provide a responsive and high quality service to the community.
Such an individual or group may include those with knowledge in relation to one or more of the key issues relevant to the operation of the service i.e.:
Child and family welfare;
Family violence, child abuse and family safety issues;
Legal issues, especially in relation to Family Law;
Service provision and accessibility;
Understanding of and adherence to relevant legal obligations.
The accountabilities of the advisory person or management group and to the advisory person or management group will be clear so that those participating and Peace of Mind staff are aware of the group or individual’s approval of current Case Management. All parties concerned will benefit from the input and support from relevant quarters as it is crucial that Peace of Mind remain firmly focused on our role and be highly vigilant about the quality of the service provided.
Peace of Mind will be able to be contacted at all business hour relevant times in order to be accessible and fulfil our purposes. Accessibility issues in relation to those with specific needs, such as mental health, disability, and/or language differences, will be addressed. Sufficient time may be scheduled for when the service is not providing direct client services, so as to receive referrals, conduct assessments and to liaise in relation to forthcoming visits and other associated matters.
All clients accounts and fees are to be paid at least 48 hours prior to contact visit. We must receive by email at least 48 hours notice for cancellation of visit or NO refund will apply. If residential party states a child/ren are sick a medical certificate is required.
Peace of Mind may develop, maintain and review policies and procedures regarding the release of case information. Case files will NOT be released except as provided by law, court order or consent of the parties.
Client details, contacts, concerns, notes about difficulties relating to how contact proceeded, notes about interactions between child and parents and all contacts relating to the family will be documented and housed in a structured, sequential and secure manner.
Files will be kept secure at all times. Documents will be kept in a locked filing cabinet and where possible, in a locked room. Information will to be kept private and business conducted in an environment where conversations cannot be overheard.
Statistics may be kept in order to report on demand, for evaluation purposes and to account to Peace of Mind bodies. Statistical reports will not compromise client confidentiality.
Evaluation of all aspects of Peace of Mind service delivery will be ongoing and it will be regarded as a core function, rather than a negotiable or low priority activity. Evaluation is crucial to quality assurance and may include, but not be confined to, client feedback, referrer feedback and staff input.
RESOURCES AND FUNCTIONS
Resources will largely determine the range of Peace of Mind associated services which can be provided and the number of clients who it can seek assistance. Peace of Mind services aim to endeavour to ensure that the diverse needs of clients are taken into account when seeking resources.
Peace of Mind staff aim to ensure that the service which we are able to provide is of a high quality and not let this be compromised by high levels of demand for service use. Services aim to attempt to identify the type of assistance which is most needed by families in order to target available resources to areas of greatest need.
All services have a procedures manual which may be updated regularly and which articulates guidelines relating to the particular services which are offered.
This manual aims to include all forms, operational protocols, administrative procedures and emergency contact numbers.
SECURITY AND SAFETY
For most services the primary security and safety arrangements may be:
The intake assessment and documentation as directed by parent and case review process
An able staff presence
Service specific staff preparation
Well documented and proficient security protocols
A systematic review of security and safety measures
Establishing written protocols for child emergency situations
Establishing written protocols for critical incidents.
Whilst all security arrangements should be as unobtrusive as possible, it must be made clear to all who use the service that these arrangements are in place and are effective to the best of Peace of Mind’s ability; that security requirements will vary according to the assessment made of each particular case. Resources and security needs will effect decisions about the type of cases services are equipped and able to take on.
The following additional measures may be recommended in high risk situations:
written policies and procedures that describe the layout of premises that keeps parents physically and visually separate
written procedures so that there is no contact or interaction between the parents unless this has been planned for by the service and agreed upon by both parents
copies of relevant court documents, parenting agreements and family violence orders readily available for staff
a plan for the safe arrival , departure and use of service
Peace of Mind services are not legally able to physically restrain a visiting parent from removing the child from a Peace of Mind service, even if this is contrary to the party’s agreement or an order of a court.
Case Management Supervisors may be neither instructed nor expected to physically restrain a person from removing a child. It may therefore important to establish a written protocol with police to cover such possible occurrences. The protocol may establish how the police are to be notified and what assistance and response the service can expect from police, including the priority police will accord to requests for assistance. Unless a criminal offence has been committed and this includes breach of a family violence order, police will generally not have the legal authority to stop a visiting parent absconding with the child.
However, police may be prepared to investigate if a child is wrongly removed or not returned after a supervised contact visit, where there is a concern for the safety of the child. Where a child is wrongly removed while supervision is taking place, Peace of Mind will immediately notify the parent whom the child lives with and provide that parent with information and support. If the service has concerns about the child's welfare, then further steps of notifying the police and/or the relevant child welfare authority may be undertaken.
SUPERVISOR TO CHILD RATIO
The ratio of supervisors to children will be appropriate to each situation and will depend on:
The nature and extent of risk factors present in each case
The nature of the supervision required in each case
The number and age of children to be supervised together during contact
The number of people visiting the child
The duration and location of supervision
The expertise and experience of the supervisors
In cases which have been assessed as high risk, a one to one ratio will not be sufficient because the supervisor may be distracted by some other demand and their observational and supervisory capacity may be compromised.
RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE CHILD
Primary responsibility for the care of the child and the child's belongings, subject to any contrary order rests with the parents rather than Peace of Mind.
Unless there are safety issues or other issues to the contrary, the person dropping the child off must remain to care for the child until the visiting parent arrives to take responsibility for the child. Conversely, Staff will support the child if it is necessary for the parent dropping the child off to leave the premises before the other parent arrives.
Prior to supervision occurring, agreement will be reached with parent/s as to who will take responsibility for ensuring that things necessary for visits are available: such as food, medication, clothing, car restraints, toys and play equipment, also the packing up and return of said items at conclusion of supervised contact. Generally speaking the visiting party usually supplies unless there are special circumstances. These matters will always be clearly noted on the case file in order to minimise and manage any additional parental conflict.
Where the child is in the care of the supervisors (eg. where the residential parent leaves before the visiting parent arrives or where the visiting parent leaves before the residential parent has arrived to collect the child) the service will temporarily be responsible for the care of the child. Staff will provide sensitive and respectful support to the child before the other parent arrives.
During intake Peace of Mind will ensure that each of the parties agrees to the condition that they will follow the directions of the Case Management supervisors. The courts, while not being able to order that the service take the case, may assist by making an order which stipulates that while the parties are using a supervised contact service with Peace of Mind, each of the parties shall follow the reasonable directions of Peace of Mind supervisor/s. Such stipulations require Case Management Supervisors and all Peace of Mind staff to become conversant with these guidelines and dialogue with Family Court representatives to ensure that they are used effectively.
The service will focus upon promoting the child's welfare at all times, but especially when changeovers or supervised visits are being facilitated. The methods of doing so will include:
Monitoring the changeover or visit through attentive supervision;
Guiding a parent and modelling behaviours that promote positive adult/child interactions;
Guiding or providing directions to a parent in order to resolve any problem which arises during supervision or changeover; and
Where it is necessary, termination or suspension of the visit/use of service.
Peace of Mind may adjust fees and service hours, to be available to those who need them. Peace of Mind may therefore be financially accessible to all and no one be excluded because they are Genuinely unable to meet the service’s fee schedule.
Fees can be a barrier. The visiting parent may feel that they are being required to pay to see their child or a vulnerable parent may complain that they are being required to pay in an attempt to secure their safety. Peace of Mind may determine that an agreement be reached or a court order made regarding fees for service where there is the ability of one or both parents to pay.
Fees may cause hardship or limit the amount of child/parent contact. The fact that a compulsory fee applies may be a stumbling block to the parties reaching agreement that the service should be used and therefore Peace of Mind aims to be aware of all issues made known to Peace of Mind, and where fees are charged a realistic means test may be sensitively applied, upon request.
GUIDELINES & SERVICE INFORMATION
Peace of Mind have written guidelines which specify:
The rules which will be applied by the service
The roles and responsibilities of the service and the parties
The instances where service will be suspended, cancelled or not provided
These guidelines are publicly available and information about Peace of Mind can be disseminated.
The opening hours for facilitation of changeovers or supervised visits will depend on the resources of the service, the age range of the children, the type of families Peace of Mind accepts and the needs of the client group.
Many changeovers occur at the beginning and end of a weekend. A common program for school age children for Peace of Mind is Friday late afternoons for changeovers (only) and a morning and an afternoon supervised visits and changeover session on Saturdays and Sundays. Peace of Mind also provide some weekday changeover and supervision to meet the demand and needs of the community.
In addition to the facilitated changeover and supervised visits, Peace of Mind will be open at suitable times for responding to inquiries, case management requirements and pre-arranged intake interviews.