The best locations for supervised visits
This article discusses the best locations for supervised visits and their pros and cons. Most importantly, we give you a bit of professional insight. Which location is best moving forward? Why can we go bowling but not to the beach, and what are other no-go's.
Where do we meet? Sometimes the court order or the parenting agreement already states where. In that case, it's easy.
More often than not, the location is left to the parents' decision (or caregivers). As with almost everything, this decision needs to be consensual; all parties need to agree to the location. Not so easy.
Supervised Child Contact at home
A residential parent (the parent that the child lives with permanently) says, "No, I don't want at home visits." The majority of residential parents, moms and dads, foster parents, or grandparents do not want their children to go to the other party's house.
"It is not safe at his/her house."
"He/she probably has no child gates."
"No, I don't want that – the new partner will be there too."
The above are just the most common concerns when discussing the location for the supervised visits with the residential parent. However, the visiting parent typically wants to have the children at his / her home.
What is the purpose of supervised visits?
Before we give our recommendation as an agency, let's look at what supervised visits aim to do: The purpose of Child Contact Services is to keep children safe and enable them to see both parents. Typically supervised visits are just one step in the journey of separation and shared parenting, ideally leading to regular contact with both parents.
Therefore, as an agency, we recommend at-home visits where possible. They are at the very top of our list of the best locations for supervised visits. Why? We have three good reasons for this.
Reason 1: Observing the parenting skills
Indoor play-centres are artificial environments. Food and drinks are available to purchase, and a waitress even cleans up the mess after the meal. If the visiting parent gets tired, the children are usually happy enough to hop, bounce, and climb independently. Easy as. What we don't see is the usual environment. How do parent and child interact when it is not a super fun entertainment day. What do they talk about? What does the visiting parent do when the child gets bored? The bottom line is: Even a stranger could have a great day with a child in a stuffed-with-fun play-centre. It does not tell us much about the relationship between the visiting parent and the child or the visiting parent's parenting skills.
Safety check of the parent's place
The visiting parent's home, on the other hand, is real life. To be blunt: If we conduct a supervised visit at home, we see if the visiting parent has tidied up, bought child-appropriate drinks and foods, child-proofed the house (particularly with younger children), arranged for food and beverages, and knows how to entertain the child or not. We see more meaningful conversations between the visiting parent and the child (or not); we see a space for the child, a bedroom, toys, clothes. In short: Ideally, we can report whether the visiting parent's place is a safe place for the child and if the visiting parent can look after the child(-ren) for an extended time.
Test run for unsupervised visits.
Quite often, supervised visits are only a temporary measure. Suppose the court decides the visiting parent can have the children unsupervised after the first set of visits (usually ten visits). Wouldn't you as a resident parent be more comfortable if you knew it went well at the visiting parent's home? Because the children have been there, done that – under supervision?
That said, do we rule out other locations? Not at all! From experience, we recommend starting in a neutral place – mainly if it has been a while since the visiting parent and the children spent time together.
Child Contact Services at a public playground or park
A public playground is a perfect location for the first meet-up in a long time, especially with young children. In a somewhat familiar environment, the visiting parent and the child can re-connect and talk and play together. Likewise, a public park is fantastic to throw the footie, have a chat and a snack.
Supervised visitation at a sport-park or activity related location
Sport-park, basketball courts, tennis courts, bowling centres are great locations for active children and their caregivers. A quick basketball game with a good tackle and an 'all ten' strike at bowling make a great talking point. Sport helps to bond with the visiting parent – especially if it is an activity loved by the children and the parent alike.
As described above, play-centres can be great entertainment and a nice treat for a child that has not seen a parent in a while. Why does it not make our list of the best locations for supervised visits? We often find the children are playing independently from the visiting parent. In other words: Even active visiting parents can barely ever keep up with an energy-loaded child. Play-centres are a great day out to ensure the children are entertained but don't help or reveal much about the relationship between the visiting parent and the child(ren).
Fast food restaurants are not on our list of the best locations for supervised visits. But, unless the visiting parent squeezes into the tubes of the indoor playground, the interactions are limited, and the environment is artificial. Like play-centres, we recommend fast-food restaurants and other restaurants instead as a one-off treat than a usual meeting-up.
Our recommendation is: Start in a park, on a playground or similar for the first visit or two, but then move on to the visiting parent's home (where possible). If you want to make it more interesting, throw in a play-centre or another activity after 4-5 visits, but don't make it the rule. Supervised contacts are a temporary measure to ensure the child is safe.
No, no's for supervised visit locations.
Pool/Beach: We cannot offer visitations at the beach or in the pool either. Not even on a scorching summer day. Not only are there always safety concerns at a beach. More importantly, we cannot expect our supervisors to change into their bathers and hop into the water with our clients.
Shopping malls are no when it comes to an entire visit. If you need to pop into a mall to pick something up quickly, grab a snack or get a haircut – that is fine. However, a shopping centre is not a suitable location for supervised contact with your child as it does not encourage bonding more relationship building.
The rule of thumb for The best locations for supervised visits is: We support any place or activity where the children are safe, and the supervisor can remain close enough to hear and see what is going on at all times.
This entry was tagged Child Contact Services, child contact services at home, child contact services locations, co-parenting, DCP, handover locations, separation, supervised child contact, Supervised child contact services.