They smoke and smack

I’m divorced and I want our child to go on seeing his father and grandparents but I’ve had arguments in the past with them because they all smoke like chimneys. Also, when my son does anything his grandparents don’t like they shout at him and smack him – and being a normally boisterous and curious little boy they seem to do it a lot. I’ve explained we don’t smack and I’d like them to not smoke when he’s with them but they say in their house they’ll do as they please. Is the anything I can do?

You could insist that meetings in future be at your local Child Contact Centre. All centres operate a no smoking or smacking policy. If either object, point out you are not obstructing contact and are happy for them to see your son as often as agreed…but in circumstances you have decided are safe for him. If they change their policy in the future so may you.

A Child Contact Centre is a place where children whose parents live apart can spend time with them, and other agreed family members. Child Contact Centres are run by The National Association of Child Contact Centres and all of them are accredited and the staff and volunteers are fully trained. The idea is that families are either referred by a social worker, solicitor, mediator, CAFCASS or Court order. Or, at some centres, you can refer yourself. You apply by filling out a form which names the people who will be seeing the child, and then make arrangements for a visit. Child Contact Centres can offer three levels of support for separated families;

Children can be taken to the centre, which is warm and friendly and will have toys and areas where children can play, and facilities for adults to have refreshment. The parent dropping off the children stays with them until the other parent arrives. They can handover seeing each other but if this is not acceptable neither need actually be face-to-face at any time. After hand-over, children can spend as long as agreed with the other parent and any relatives that have been named on the referral form. While there, parents agree to certain rules, for the safety of the child and to ensure the visit is fun and safe;

• No arguing in front of children, no abusive or aggressive behaviour.
• Only the people named to be there
• Children cannot simply be left – one parent has to hand over to the other, even if they don’t see each other face to face.
• No drink, drugs or smoking and no-one under the influence to be allowed into the centre
• The parent leaving a child must give a phone number where they can be reached.

Supervised Child Contact
When there are concerns about the risk to the child, or when parent and child have not seen each other for some time and may need help re-establishing a relationship, contact can be supervised. The child and adult are under observation at all times by a supervisor – a highly trained professional – with the support of another colleague. The visit will have a time limit, and reports will be kept to help the supervisor keep the child safe and support parents in managing the visit in the best interests of the child.

Most Child Contact Centre will function as drop off point, where parents can go and play with their children while waiting for the other parent to collect a child for a planned visit, either for the day or longer. This is useful if for some reason one or other of the parents doesn’t want the other parent to visit their home. As with supported or supervised visits, parents do not have to see each other face-to-face.

Get in touch and find your nearest centre and set it up. Then you will know your child is getting the best of both worlds – seeing his other family but staying safe. And they may find it helps them see you’re right in what you ask and they may change their harmful behaviour.

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