In the UK we have one of the highest rates of family breakdown in the Western world, absolutely nothing to be proud of. It is estimated that over one million children have no contact with one of their parents and grandparents.
Not only does this have an enormous effect on children causing them Emotional Abuse through alienation but it also costs our broken society. It is difficult to get hold of actual figures but one source says that it costs business and society in excess of 46 billion per year.
For me figures don’t matter it is the human damage that is done that is significant.
Sometimes the only way for an alienated parent or grandparent to see their children/grandchildren is by a referral to a Contact Centre. There are over 400 such centres around the country, and they are mostly run by volunteers to provide a safe space.
It seems that they also vary enormously as far as fees are concerned.
In some areas after paying a fee of £20 there is no further cost, but in others the fees can be as Supported- £64.50 per hour, Observed Supervised £75.50.
I have no experience myself of a Contact Centre, so I asked to hear from people who had.
Here is one example:
” It took us over 4 hours to reach the Contact Centre, my son and I were met by a third party and had to wait in the hallway. We were then showed in to a room, it had hard chairs and a hard wooden floor, someone was sitting in the room on their lap-top. We were told that my grandchild had arrived and the third party went out to meet them, we were not allowed to leave the room. Our grandchild was very upset when they came into the room, she had never met the third party before, so had been taken from her Mum into the arms of a complete stranger. It understandably took some time before she settled down, eventually she started to play with some of the toys we had taken with us. We had just three hours and we wanted to make it as happy a time as it could possibly be. We fed her and changed her, whilst the third party typed away on her lap-top, writing her report.
It is difficult to think of any of our visit being a positive time, apart from obviously spending time with our precious grandchild. I just don’t understand why it had come to this.
My son or myself have no criminal record, no drug taking history, nothing at all to find ourselves in a place like this.
At no time was my son or myself allowed to be with our grandchild, even when heating up her food we had to be accompanied. I shall never forget how awful it felt, like being in prison and that we were criminals.
When the time came for her to go, once again she was taken from us to be returned to her resident parent. More tears, from us all.
If I could change the experience, I would say that the children should not be taken from a parent and taken by a complete stranger, as long as though there is no safeguarding issues, the parents should be able to deal with handover in a compassionate manner, for the sake of the children.
We paid £120, for my son to see his own child and for me to see my grandchild.
There is something so wrong with this archaic system.
We also had to remain in the room until they had driven away.”
Sometimes to attend a contact centre is the only way to be able to keep connected, but if this particular story is replicated all over the UK, I do wonder what it feels like to be a child having to go through this.
Children who love both their parents and their extended family, not understanding why it is this way.
I would be interested in hearing of other peoples experiences when using a contact centre.